Most of the 2016 predictions for content publishers that I’ve seen predict continuations of trends that have been going on for many years: shift to mobile, more use of video, continued loss of sales and revenue at retail, adaptation to ad blocker technologies, and so on. Fair enough — we’re barreling in that direction, and there’s no reason to think we’re going to change direction this year. But you already knew that, didn’t you? No need to anticipate what is, for most of us, current reality.
On the other hand, there are changes that have already happened — but not yet hit. Those changes are going to define print publishers’ reality in 2016 in a concrete and definite way. And yet, many publishers haven’t yet prepared for these changes, or even realised they are taking shape. Here’s what to expect:
1. Your newsstand reports are going to look different. Wholesalers have already begun shifting their accounting systems to accommodate scan-based-trading, and in some cases not even they know quite what this will look like in terms of final accounting and reporting. But in at least several very dominant instances, inventory received at the agency goes onto the affidavit, and gets subtracted from it as sales are scanned at retail level. That may mean that your newsstand reports will look more like a sales flow than a returns flow, with the sales numbers rising instead of falling week over week; or it might mean that your returns hit earlier than ever before. However it falls out, it will create ripples for every publisher paying attention to newsstand, and in some cases those ripples have already begun.
2. Your newsstand accounting will take a temporary, but significant, hit. Off-invoice RDA, the new norm, means, in practical terms, that your up-front remit will drop noticeably, and the RDA debits applied to final issues will go away. This might, in the long term, be a blessing; but for publishers not currently offering universal RDA — and some are still out there — the financial hit could be lasting.
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