Harrington sent out the final issue of The New Single Copy this week after a 19-year run, though he’ll continue to write about the business on his website.
Folio: caught up with Harrington to get his perspective on where the newsstand is right now and what can be done to fix the supply chain behind it.
Folio: Most people will agree that the newsstand supply chain is broken, but a lot of people are quick to put all the blame on the product, print magazines—you see a much deeper problem though. How much of the issue is with the product and how much is it the fault of the legacy system in place?
John Harrington: Clearly, newsstand and retail isn’t going to sell at the kind of levels it did even five or six years ago, but the success in that period was because of a boom in the celebrity category. And now, that category is probably the most impacted by the rise of technology and social media. But with the success of book-a-zines, it’s clear that that same information can be packaged in different ways that can still sell a lot of units. Few magazines have altered their editorial strategy to take advantage of that.
The mechanics of the distribution channel are definitely broken, as well, but there’s an opportunity since there are only two traditional wholesalers [Hudson News and TNG] and one large direct distributor [Ingram Content Group], and all of them are financially secure with big backing companies or private backers.
The financial models of wholesalers and publishers still don’t line up though. Publishers can still afford a certain level of inefficiency there because of their advertising base, while wholesalers are paid only for the copies that sell and are having to handle more and more copies to sell fewer. It’s incompatible.
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