By Karlene Lukovitz
To wrap up day one of the Magazines at Retail conference, Jerry Lynch, president of the International Periodical Distributors Association/IPDA (far left in photo), led the day’s speakers and panelists and other executives in reviewing and discussing key takeaways.
Asked if, given the discouraging economic trends he laid out in his presentation, he sees any reason for optimism about the prospects for magazine retail sales, Craig Matters, former managing editor of Money magazine, said: “The environment’s not going to get easier, but we can create opportunities through new thinking and products. Local bookstores in the town where I live are always mobbed, but there are few new magazines in those stores. We need to go where the money is—prosperous communities whose residents are readers—rather than only engage with traditional channels that may be in decline.”
Targeting the older and more affluent Millennials would also make sense, Matters noted. “Millennials—and all of us—are addicted to our phones,” he added. “That means phones have fabulous potential as point of purchase devices. The industry isn’t nearly where it should be in terms of leveraging mobile.”
Asked about key newsstand challenges and opportunities, Dan Fuchs, publisher and CRO of HGTV Magazine, said Hearst is very excited about shopper marketing initiatives, such as partnering with another product or advertiser and a retailer to create special displays with offers that incentivize purchases of both magazines and the partner product.
Fuchs also noted that Millennials like to read print magazines as a pleasant break from their heavy digital engagement at work, and that because they’re interested in enhancing their home environments, he believes HGTV Magazine would sell well near home décor or furnishing items in stores. He also stressed that new product is exciting to consumers—and that existing brands should take up the challenge of ensuring that each issue looks and feels new.
Will Michalopoulos, senior director of retail sales for Hearst and chairman of PBAA, agreed that innovative ideas are more critical than ever, noting that bundled magazines or multi-packs, such as three magazines for $10, are “working phenomenally” at one large Canadian retailer.
He added that the magazine industry needs to explore using new in-store technology like beacons to engage and make offers to shoppers, and also develop strategies for how it’s going to reach affluent consumers as they increasingly favor online buying over physical-store shopping.
Liz Safford, SVP of consumer and membership marketing for the National Geographic Society, noted that children, as well as adults, prefer consuming articles (as opposed to short items) on paper, and that social and online channels can be effective for reminding people that the magazine is at local stores. She also sees promise in leveraging beacons and basically all cost-effective communications channels: “It takes many contacts to make a sale—it builds as people are repeatedly exposed to the brand,” she observed.
“You need to explain where they can buy the print or digital edition while they’re engaging on social, or they get turned off,” added Kate Coughlin, senior manager of social media for NGS. “It really is all about convenience,” agreed NGS social media producer Jessie Mesirov, mentioning that some payment apps can auto-populate credit card information.
“We need to innovate and ‘fail fast’ [with new channels] and try again, because the more engagement we have, the more sales we’ll have,” said John MacKethan, VP retail sales and special editions and circulation director, North America for National Geographic magazine.
Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism, said that strong single-copy sales of high-priced, high-quality bookazines show that the industry can succeed when magazines are not treated like commodities. "We need to break out of our cocoons and traditional ways of operating and thinking and find new ways to drive people to the newsstand," he said.