Covers Sell

Covers Sell

Newsstand: the best barometer of our performance

Posted by Scott On April - 1 - 2010

Newly Possible Synergies Enhancing Retail’s Value
By Cathie Black, President, Hearst Magazines
http://news.ipda.org/march-10/march-10/hearst-magazines-president-on-the-power-of-retail.html

There’s no rush of excitement quite like the one I get at a newsstand. On city street corners, in airports, in retail venues from bookstores to big-box stores-anywhere print lives-I see people reach for magazines, get hooked by a cover or cover lines, story or photo or table of contents, and then buy the magazine.

The thrill of watching the engagement process unfold never wears off! And here’s why: For all the exciting innovation that digital has brought to media companies, our bottom line in magazines is still built from brands that flourish first on America’s retail racks.

From a publisher’s point of view, there is simply no better showcase than retail for our products. Consider what we reap from each and every newsstand that sells magazines: Newsstands are a critical source for new readers. Our covers attract retailers’ consumers. There is no sampling universe quite like it. Newsstands give Hearst the chance to captivate readers anew each month, simply by putting our magazines in their light. (And from the retailer’s standpoint, many research studies prove that a market basket that contains a magazine or two will be a bigger check at that retail outlet than one without magazines.)

Newsstands are also the venue where publishers try new things, from introducing titles to testing brand extensions. We continually adapt to changing consumer tastes by evolving or reinventing brands. This is something newsstands have helped us do well for decades-actually, make that a century, as we have seven magazines that are more than 100 years old and must constantly adapt their content, look and feel.

There is simply no better measure of our success-or red light for a need to improve-than what happens at the newsstand. Newsstand sales are still the most precise barometer of our performance. The truth can be tough, but it is never clearer than when people cast their votes with their pocketbooks.

What happens at the newsstand is the very pulse of print. People either like a magazine or don’t; they buy it or don’t. Either way, consumers have an immediate, unfiltered reaction to our product. That reaction gives us invaluable information.

Retailers represent a critical revenue stream for magazine companies, but their impact is far greater than sales figures tell. Retail outlets magnify brand power by making brands both highly visible and instantly accessible, and that adds significantly to a brand’s cultural and commercial influence. How can we quantify that? We can say, for example, that Cosmopolitan is the top-selling young women’s magazine on college campuses. It is also the top-selling young women’s magazine in 60 countries around the world, which explains the iconic status that inspires a young woman in Portland to feel the same connection with the brand as her counterparts in Peoria or Petaluma or Paris.

Hearst firmly believes in the power of the retail channel; that’s why we constantly use retail strategies to drive our growth. It’s also why six of our magazines (Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Food Network Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen and Marie Claire) are in the top 50 of all magazines sold at retail.

Last year, we tested a new title, Food Network Magazine, in a multi-platform launch with major emphasis on its newsstand performance. We knew that with our partner, cable TV’s Food Network, we had a strong brand. But only retail sales of test issues could tell us whether consumers would buy a print format.

In less than a year, Food Network Magazine has become one of the top-selling food titles on the newsstand, expected to generate more than $12 million in retail sales in 2010. And that’s not all. The magazine turned out to be both Advertising Age and Folio:’s “launch of the year,” plus garnered a National Magazine Award nomination in the category of General Excellence-quite a feat for a magazine less than a year old. The pages are packed with great-looking advertisers who have also responded very positively to the lively and service-oriented format.

Another retail strategy we’re using to drive growth is the “bookazine,” a magazine generated from branded Hearst content. As part of our overall strategy to offer consumers and advertisers multiple access routes into Hearst-branded content, we are also planning more products that convert digital content to print.

Our first digital conversion bookazine entry debuted in February; it’s a collection of recipes based on our successful food Web site, Delish.com. The publication, called Light & Delish, features 138 easy recipes at 400 calories or less. With a cover price of $9.99, the bookazine (which one Hearst editor describes as “a hybrid between a magazine and a soft-cover book”) is a stand-alone print product that also drives readers to Delish.com for more recipes and tips. Hearst is very excited about this new direction in retail print.

Hearst, like every other media company, is innovating to thrive in a print-digital-broadcast-podcast-text message-uploaded-downloaded-wired-wireless world. One thing is certain: There is still no feast like a magazine when you’re hungry for something to read. We see that every day at the newsstand.

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Scott Bullock’s Newsstand Cover Quiz Show is legendary in the industry. Using covers as the catalyst, this interactive and entertaining format is a light-hearted but hard-hitting spin on Packaging 101. Testing the cover savvy of magazine professionals across disciplines, the Quiz Show pits publishers against editors, circulators against art directors, retailers against wholesalers -- ultimately leading to new common ground in the quest for better covers. Scott is the Owner of Circ3, Smart Circulation Solutions, a circulation consultancy. www.circ3.com

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