The luxury of print is not just for subscribers
I recently came across a quote from an executive who said the newsstand is a crumbling method of distribution. It doesn’t need to be. After all, there will always be customers with commitment issues. And there will always be those who want a reading experience for a particular place at a particular time and who will pay a premium for that experience.
Circulation marketers around the world tend to focus on subscriptions due to their more predictable behaviours—not to mention the fact that newsstand sales on average account for just 7 per cent of a magazine’s print circulation. But the newsstand need not be neglected; there are some simple ways to reinvigorate sales there. Aside from an impactful cover, we have noticed dramatically improved sales among key retailers that work with us to fine-tune their promotions, in addition to firming up their selection and taking initiatives to attract customer footfall, clean up their shelves, and make a nice in-store retail experience. It seems that a simple recipe of positive attention to business partners—and consumers—can help to stop decline from accelerating.
This points to the fact that digital alone cannot be blamed for marring print sales. The sheer volume of choices we are faced with at the newsstand has proven to be overwhelming, so much so that we sometimes choose not to buy anything at all. There is also an issue with a loss in real estate for print, as MagNet outlined in its 2015 Q1 Newsstand Sales Results report: “Magazines at retail are an impulsive purchase. If consumers can’t find our product, they can’t purchase it.”
But, if retailers are now driving footfall with other products, is that necessarily a bad thing? For The Economist, it isn’t. It is good to have retail outlets that carry attractive products for customers and that provide the discoverability of print titles in a fresher environment, particularly in airport and travel.
There’s no denying that people who used to buy magazines or newspapers at newsstands because their subscription copy was far away are now more often accessing a digital edition of a publication through an app. But to rule out the newsstand is to rule out the spontaneous reader who wants to simply pick up a print copy without downloading an app or going through registration. And those viewing a publication via an app or website may very well be torn away by an incoming call or email, popping up or pinging them on the very same device where they are reading.
In comparison, the good old-fashioned print publication has become a simple luxury (and it even appeals to a reader’s self-image, as he is proud to be seen with certain titles in hand). Because everything we do these days is digital, print is refreshingly classic—not unlike how having a record collection has become something special.
From talking to our readers I’ve learned more about the specific allure of print—and it’s something that won’t soon fade, no matter how dusty the newsstand shelves get. In this age of distraction, print offers an escape hatch. A recent survey we conducted contained this insight from a reader: “I consume so much information online that [a] print edition is an absolutely essential relief from all that.”
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