Saturday 28 March 2020

The best of the worst

Dealing with a pandemic and the fear that comes with one is not something we ever thought we'd have to cope with at Newsstand. The last few weeks have been surreal for everyone and we don't expect these twists and turns to stop anytime soon. We're still open and sending out your magazines to this point so, so far so good.

We are extremely aware of the fact that our services are pretty low down on the order of importance - and with that we must offer our utmost thanks and support to those battling this virus and helping those who are suffering from or because of it. Having said that, we do hope that we can keep ensuring that our little paper bundles of joy reach you all - especially those who are stuck at home, as relaxation and inspiration must be truly useful offerings at this time and if nothing else, we've plentiful access to these.

What is really interesting is how we come out of this depression and what changes it will have on us going forwards. I'd like to think we can channel the "best of the 1970s" and try to hang on to some of it once this storm has passed through.

For example, there are big upsides for the environment; with fewer pointless car journeys into town, the food saving refusal to bin those outer cabbage leaves and the reduction in the general consumption of unnecessary goods. We've seen the images of air quality improvement all over the world and under flight paths the lack of contrails has even improved the light.

In business, the winners and losers seem to stare across the fence of sustainability; travel services are decimated, staying at home is lauded. Supermarket sales may be high, but normality and plentiful stock is to be found at the local markets. Home working saves travel as well as ecological and financial overheads.

Home life is challenging yet fascinating. Time management and priorities evolve and although a return to external socialising will be welcomed with open arms, its the conversations with family that provide novel insight. Community spirit is most certainly alive and well. Keeping busy is essential but you might even start to notice the calories consumed vs burnt by your body as one eye is kept on the dwindling food cupboard - is this energy conservation in its purest form?

Some of these points are fanciful and pay little attention to an economy adversely affecting many good, hard working folk, nor to the casualties of the virus itself. Like us, I suspect you are saturated with these thoughts and we wanted to combat that by sending small, positive snippets to our wonderful customers.

And then it occurred to us, that is exactly our business...

Stay positive and look after yourselves x

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Notes on a pop up magazine shop

It was with some trepidation (and audible sniggering in the background) that we spoke of opening a retail magazine shop in the heart of Canterbury, last November. A pop up shop to showcase the very best of the 4,000 magazines that we offer on our main business and website,

We were not expecting to add to the business' bottom line but were keen to not make a huge hole in it either, opening the very day the UK news was full of the joys of 98 retail outlets closing every week.

The citizens of Canterbury, a small but vibrant city, were about to find out about the independent magazine industry and we couldn't wait to see what they thought of it. Now we wouldn't want to bore you with sales figures and what not, but it started very well. In fact, it has continued to be very positive and we may well keep it open past its initial 3 month term and make it a part of the Canterbury landscape for as long as we can.

The purpose of this post, though, is to underline what an eye opening experience it has been to jump from distribution and online, to the face to face retail side of the industry. In our warehouse near Canterbury, we have the largest selection of magazines under one roof, possibly worldwide. We sell single copies and subscriptions all over the planet to wonderful folk we never meet and only very occasionally talk to. We don't see their facial expressions when they visit the website or browse the magazines on offer (not yet, anyway).

We serve publishers who are creating the most wonderful publications, earnestly despatching them across the globe - but we don't see the expressions of the readers opening the envelopes - and this has been a huge gap in our knowledge of late. Yes, we see the numbers and the growth and yes, we see the online appreciation of many publications, but it's very clearly only half of the story. Newsstand needed to keep in touch with its original vision of serving the customer; making sure it knows exactly what that customer likes and wants, and delivers it.

So, aside from the financial effects of the pop up shop, in a town that is far from cheap for retail space, we have seen the faces of folk entering the shop. We have heard the mutterings of "is it a book shop" turn into the "these magazines are amazing", the disbelief that so many are made to such a high standard. To use online retailers' jargon, the conversion rate in the shop is extremely impressive and customers who take the time to browse almost always find something they are willing and happy to buy.

Aside from the shop itself, this gives us huge hope for the future of the online business, we have seen the responses of the, to date, untapped market - those who just do not know these magazines exist. When we are feeling positive, we sense that the independent magazine market is at an increasingly exciting time. We've known for years about the quality of the products, it's just up to now they have been the preserve of a select, design conscious audience (honk generalisation klaxon at will...).

Having seen first hand what an uninitiated slice of the general public think of them, promotion to a wider audience is happening, and it works, and its very exciting for everyone involved. For Newsstand, the traditional shop has at least been the best market research that we have ever carried out - if you're in the area please pop in and tell us what you really think.

Monday 27 March 2017

There is much more to magazine survival than simply digital vs print

The magazine market is in decline. Evidently the internet has had a part to play, but there are other influences that the wailing cries of print’s demise often leave out. Two that stand out above all others are the supply chain and the publishers’ faith in digital magazines.

JG Palmer (established in 1898 and the owner of, used to be the wholesaler of newspapers and magazines in the Kent area and beyond. They were one of many independent wholesalers, renowned for innovation and at the cutting edge of distribution progress in the industry.

This healthy balance of the three multiple wholesalers plus the many independents was slowly eroded over decades, but came to an abrupt end in 2006 when Frontline (part owned by Emap), took the radical decision to award all their vertical distribution contracts to the three multiple wholesalers alone (Menzies Distribution, Smiths News and Dawson News). Other distributors followed Frontline’s lead and independent wholesaling was removed from the industry almost overnight and along with it a healthy chunk of competition.

Dawson News ran in to trouble not long after and the industry is now served by just two multiple wholesalers. I am sure that it is worth saying here that the remaining wholesalers carry out sterling work and still provide an excellent distribution platform for all magazines (we would like to point out the superb relationship we have with our local wholesaler), but it would be brave to assume that there has been no overall deterioration in service due to the aforementioned reduction in competition and the subsequent centralisation of services.

Alongside these distribution changes, the giant retailers have been enjoying the pleasures of the fixed magazine range. To be displayed in the supermarkets and WH Smiths can now cost the publisher no small amount of money – and with total retail control of stock, access to the shelves of the most visited shops in the country is no longer a luxury that most titles can afford.

The result of these ranges was that, as magazines had to go somewhere, the independent, non ranged newsagents would receive more and more product. An excellent range of just about everything you may think – but these very rarely fitted on the shelves. Displays suffered and management of the stock became harder and harder to the point that many newsagents would either give up magazines altogether or simply take a range of the top 40 bestsellers and no more.

Eventually, this meant that the new launches (that didn’t have six figure promotional budgets) were lost to the eyes of the consumer. They either had nowhere to go or were literally stuffed into some shelving with barely their spine on display. This environment makes it very hard to develop circulation, and as the top sellers move on (or their readership does) there are fewer visible magazines to fill their shoes. It also becomes a vicious circle with the ranges in multiple retailers and the calamity on the indies’ shelf space – browsing for new magazines here became headache inducing.
Subscriptions might seem like the obvious answer, but these should always be sold as upselling to the casual reader. If the casual reader and single copy sale is not there, subscription marketing becomes about price and not quality – you’re selling to people who don’t know your product. This price war eventually ensures that subscriptions are virtually given away and the print magazine, as a product, is cheapened almost beyond repair. Discounts are perfectly harmless in short bursts – but to flog something at a fraction of its cost for years on end can only damage the image of the magazine in the eyes of the wider public – as well as make the publishing business model uneconomical.

This is one of the main reasons that the new “indie” magazine resurgence has been so strong. The industry was, almost unbeknown to itself, crying out for some differentiation, allowing quality, tactile publications to distance themselves from the mainstream 3 issues for £3 degradation. In reality, it is this successful drive for a product to be valued that makes it work – the care in copy, production and distribution are essential, otherwise you do play, unnecessarily, into the hands of the internet.

It was this fear of the internet that drove many publishers to put too many of their eggs into the digital basket, opening up the internet media and bloggers as competition with the staggered development of digital issues. Despite more recent attempts to progress, these digital issues were far too much like websites – with the added silo nature of the offering only losing it further marks.

Younger generations love print, but they do not want to be forced to commit nor have their horizons fixed. This has a detrimental effect on both the subscription and digital models of magazine distribution. Understandably, publishers have looked to additional services such as in app purchasing and events; these may well earn them important income but they do little to help the circulation numbers.

Newsstand has looked at this from an altogether different angle. Since 1995, it has taken the print offering and concentrated on two key factors.

Firstly, the service to the consumer needed an overhaul. Single copies, next day delivery and in house customer services were a must – in these days of online purchasing, expecting customers to wait six weeks and not be sure which issue or when it will arrive is not acceptable. Providing the best service allows a respectable price to be asked and Newsstand has underlined the adage that customers will pay for what they want, when they want it. This results in an economically positive market for our publishers to operate in and unique fulfilment systems ensure smooth operation. Holding stock on thousands of magazines also allows the availability of each publication to be at 100%, worldwide, always.

Secondly, Newsstand employs marketing techniques that promote magazines as individual issues rather than so much the magazine brand itself. Customers may design their own subscriptions across any number of titles and keep abreast of their favourite people and topics. With excellent response rates, this method allows for cross selling but also ensures the products keep sight of what the customer wants. The art of cover design is back in play, having been lost temporarily amongst the newsagents’ overcrowded shelves.

There is still a long way to go. Newsstand has returned double digit increases across the board for five years running, has signed up many publishers to its fulfilment offering and has hundreds of thousands of customers on its books, but can it ever replace the browsing experience?

The print magazine now has a wonderful opportunity. The force of digital on individual lives is increasing exponentially. Yes, it’s fast and efficient, but it is also overwhelming. Print’s supposed weaknesses can become it’s driving strength – to reintroduce slow reading, longer form articles, tactile experiences and top quality imagery; become a modern day meditation against the endless information onslaught.

Thursday 15 December 2016

The Great Print Magazine Opportunity of 2017-19

We are really quite excited at Newsstand at the moment, because we see the coming years as the perfect opportunity for the print magazine industry.

It's supposed weaknesses are, in a reversal of business parlance (which can only be a good thing), surely it's strengths and opportunity. Isn't the digital age, now in full swing, becoming a burden on our lives and minds? It's efficient, fast and indefinite. It's everywhere, it's intangible, fleeting, easy....and all too often pointless (yes, yes, we know but at least we've kept it short).

This is manifesting itself across industries and lifestyles. Journalism is by some accounts on it's knees and advertising isn't far behind. Social interaction, especially important for the young, is probably plummeting. We could go on.

Well, we believe the tide is turning. The magazine has the ability to break the whirlwind cycle of brief consumption after brief consumption that we experience individually and almost daily - occasionally interrupted by putting the need to recharge the mobile above our own personal requirements.

We need to switch off, to actually read what we read and practice the art of concentration. The magazine has the unique opportunity to gently re introduce this important factor to our weekly existence. They have pictures if you are a little weary and the articles are not too long; you are safe from some threat of literary shock and holding a magazine open is perhaps the perfect start on the long road to recovery.

Market it so.

Friday 13 March 2015

Print Magazines just need to clear their throats

We think the Print Is(n't) Dead ping pong rhetoric is becoming a little stale. All magazines being grouped together in the same boat, sinking or otherwise, is both unfair and inaccurate. It takes quite a lot to make us at Newsstand pen a blog post - but this topic ticks all the right boxes and we strongly feel the need to assuage our twitching eyelid.

There are magazines and then there are magazines.

We are going to be a little crude here and group them in to two distinctive areas. There are mainstream, high print run, advert driven magazines and then there are independent, low print run, copy sales driven publications.

It would be foolish and occasionally unfair to write that one group was of higher quality than the other, but they certainly work from different business models which influence strongly the final product that you would end up with on your coffee table/dustbin.

The mainstream segment will always look to it's circulation numbers to fuel its advertising revenue, whereas the independent sector will generally look to producing a product that the customer will pay a sustainable price for. With extreme generalisation, we can say that the mainstream magazines are having a tough time - resorting to cheaper and cheaper subscription deals in order to keep those circulation numbers up; similarly we can say that the independents are experiencing a boom with new launches and increasing sales for those producing the "quality with love" products that typify the sector.

Readers can get the "advert driven, flippantly written" stuff all over the internet - it's free and plentiful. What readers still want - and are happy to pay well for - is the quality publication that the editor lives and breathes and that which feels wonderful in your hands. The fact that it is hard to come by and not shoved in front of us on every corner helps, too.

Yes there are huge challenges for the Indie sector, from availability to cost management - at Newsstand we provide them with a better online sales and fulfilment service than even the mainstream titles have access to - but they are still growing in numbers, increasing sales and bringing us back to a time when print was a joy to behold (that was a real time, right?)

We also know there are also many mainstream titles that are of exceptionally high quality and that we have generalised horribly in this post, but it was means to highlight an important differentiation...that is, when discussing the future success of print magazines please do refer to the baby and the bathwater.

The irony we suppose, is that it's the thought of becoming a successful, mainstream magazine that drives the indie sector on to produce such wonderful products - after all, few independent publishers can be found sequinned up and buying tables at the latest industry function. 

So print magazines aren't dying or booming, its just that the paying public is wising up. It's called evolution.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Yes, yes, it is a gift that lasts all year.

It has been ages since we went back to basics on our marketing here at Newsstand (quiet at the back, please). Our concentration has been focused squarely at the development of our service to both customers and publishers over the last year or so. So now, stepping back, it might be worth jotting down the benefits of a good old magazine subscription as a gift.

Firstly, we would all love an antidote to the "opened before lunch and broken by tea" gift situation. It's wasteful and although it provides a rush of excitement, its a tenable situation neither for the recipient nor the giver....

A magazine subscription, on the other hand, is effectively indestructible and will last as long as you want it at Newsstand you can choose subscription lengths from a single copy right up to one or two years' worth. They'll be reminded of your generosity long after pine needles are found in turkey sandwiches, not once, but 2, 5, 8 or 12 times!

Also, the sheer breadth of choice we have (the largest range online), means that you can broaden someone's horizons with a magazine that they hadn't even known existed, on a topic that you know they enjoy. Overseas magazines are especially useful for this, but we also have a large range of high quality independent publications - very often with free post within the UK.

Yes, we do gift cards, but where we really excel is with our Gift Credit offer. This can be viewed as a simple voucher for use at Newsstand. However, when you consider it against a subscription to one magazine for a year, it comes into its own.

The recipient can use the credit against any one of 3,500 magazines from around the world - a copy of this and a short subscription to that - it is totally up to them. They can even receive alerts for every new issue of their favourites and decide which ones to have delivered and which ones to leave.

For you, it is a simple process and we'll send the voucher on, either to you or the lucky person.

Heartfelt sales pitch over, all of us at Newsstand wish customers and everyone else a wonderful Christmas and/or holiday season.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Come back Derek....

A bead of sweat ran halfway down his forehead, pausing slightly at the last, great rift ordaining his twitching frown. Derek had been like this for days, the last days of October; the days he both looked forward to and hated the most. He’d considered another vocation, of course he had. The dehydration, above all else, plagued his thoughts, his home life. He thought of his wife and child, long since left on their annual Autumn get away (from Derek).

That was Derek last year, folks.

He was in charge of Christmas email sending here at Newsstand – it was his decision when it should be sent to potentially hundreds of thousands of Newsstand customers. For many years, he was THE man. Finger hovering over the send button for days on end – never missing that golden moment where weather, half terms, consumer optimism and an intangible whiff of Christmas forethought collided to create that wondrous retailer’s dream, the moment when the reader actually, vaguely appreciates a sales email.

This year, as Derek started displaying symptoms even early in October, we sent him packing…. he’s currently on a trip to see the Northern lights and Santa Claus in Scandinavia with his family. We told him it was far too early, but he wouldn’t listen.

Retailers up and down the country have their own fingers twitching away as we speak – in fact, this post was inspired (yes, OK, we hear you) by a magazine retailer who’s just caved in and sent theirs. We think they’ve bolted too soon, but we can appreciate the stressful times and, quite frankly, if they don’t have a man like Derek in their ranks, well, these things can happen.