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Newsstand distribution: 5 minutes with… John Bardsley

Selling magazines at the newsstand is challenging but worth the effort, because many people still prefer to buy their magazines there. We grab five minutes with John Bardsley, MD of magazine distributor Intermedia Brand Marketing, to find out how publishers should be marketing their titles.

By John Bardsley

Newsstand distribution: 5 minutes with… John Bardsley

Q: What is the secret of a successful presence at retail?

A: The retail newsstand is a challenging sector of the market for many publishers and yet remains the primary route to the consumer for many magazine brands. Equally, the category is for many retailers, an important footfall driver and therefore publishing objectives have to be married with the commercial reality of retailing magazines – and that isn’t always an easy task!

Forward planning in order to establish a clear strategy is critical. At the heart of the strategy should be the clear identification of the target reader, to include a clear understanding of who they are, where they shop, their motivation to purchase, what else they buy, along with clarity around the all-important publishing objectives. Only then can the basis of a suitable distribution footprint be planned.

Whilst the magazine category remains a creative and vibrant one in stores, pressure on space and the need to maximise the revenue return has never been greater for publishers, as well as retailers. Sheer breadth of distribution should not form the primary driver and should by no means be used as an indicator of a successful distribution footprint. It is incumbent on publishers and distributors, to work closely with our retail partners to apply as much logic as we can to matching the goals of both parties.

Q: How can magazines achieve stand-out on crowded magazine racks?

A: Broadly speaking, magazine purchasers at the newsstand can be categorised into two distinctly different groups. Firstly, we have the planned purchasers, who typically know the magazine they wish to purchase, quite possibly purchase from a limited repertoire of stores, and most likely know the date the new issue will arrive. Maintaining appropriate levels of availability and ease of purchase for this shopper type is critical.

The second group are best described as impulse, or casual purchasers, and may not necessarily know the magazine they will purchase upon arrival at the fixture – or may not even have the intention to purchase at all. Achieving stand-out for these consumers is critical and this can be done in a variety of different ways as inevitably, they are faced with a large choice of publications within their subject matter of interest.

Sub sector signage and beacon branding is very important as this allows the customer to navigate with ease to the sub-sector of interest. Front of shelf promotions with supporting material is key, along with added value and a carefully thought through cover.

Q: What can publishers do to improve their retail targeting?

A: Increasingly, we are rightly seeing a greater emphasis on sales efficiencies in order to improve both supply chain efficiencies as well as address the increasing level of environmental pressure associated with waste levels. This in turn, means a much greater focus on copy allocation processes than ever before and again, being clear on the brand proposition and the target market across the vast array of retail types is key.

So too is the need to work closely with retailers to support the category ranging decisions, ensuring at a store level or retail type, that the category reflects the shopper profile.

Q: When it comes to front cover design, what are the key dos and don'ts?

A: Front cover design always makes for an interesting discussion and is certainly not a science! That said, there are a number of fundamental principles that should be followed. Firstly, the cover will always be the shop window of any magazine and therefore understanding the reader profile is vital. Not all purchasers will buy the magazine for the same reason and so the cover needs to appeal to each sector of the reader profile. The cover must capture the imagination and attention of the would-be purchaser and give them a reason to purchase. For example, the readership of a running magazine may be categorised into various sectors from professional runners seeking race information, first time marathon runners seeking training advice, to running club members interested in latest equipment. The coverlines need to encompass each reader type.

Equally important is the alignment of creative cover design, with the commercial reality of retailing magazines on the retail fixture. Different retailers operate with various types of magazine display fixtures and this in turn, can impact on how magazines are displayed and what proportion of the cover can be seen by the would-be purchaser. The top left-hand quarter of the cover is almost always the part of the cover which can be seen, regardless of the fixture configuration and so it is important to ensure any key selling messages, especially to impulse purchasers, is positioned accordingly.

Q: How can retail marketing work in tandem with subs marketing?

A: Very often, publishers see the magazine newsstand as an extension of their subscription marketing and a great opportunity to acquire new subscribers through the traditional use of in-title ads and inserts. The opportunity to trial new retail stockists, as well as profile the newsstand strategy to the subscriber demographic is key and can support the increasing online marketing channels in pursuit of new subscribers. Subscription packs can also provide opportunities for retailers and publishers to work closely together, particularly in a gifting and donor context where retailers can sell the subscription offer.

Q: What retail trends should independent publishers be aware of?

A: There are three major trends that publishers should be aware of.

First is the volume of retailers selling magazines. We have seen an overall decline in store numbers over recent years and therefore it is incumbent on publishers, distributors and wholesalers to focus heavily on the appeal, efficiency and profitability of the category which, along with newspapers, remains a very significant footfall driver for many retailers and the other categories they stock.

Second is the intense competition that the magazine fixture contends with. Competition comes not just from other magazines competing for space, but the category overall has to earn its presence within retail stores. Pressure from other categories, whether that be stationery, lottery, confectionery to name but a few, will intensify and so a well-managed, creative and attractive magazine category is vital.

Thirdly, as an industry, we must remain acutely aware of our sustainability and environmental obligations. We continue to enjoy a sale or return market which allows for significant control and influence through the supply chain, however a focus on unsold waste levels is of increasing importance. Ensuring we deliver increasingly targeted circulation strategies is at the core of our relentless drive to achieve strong and profitable newsstand sales.

"...a comprehensive range of circulation marketing and distribution services..."

About us

We at Intermedia Brand Marketing provide a comprehensive range of circulation marketing and distribution services which embrace the modern media landscape and enable our publisher clients to reach and grow their total audience across every route to the consumer.

Intermedia Brand Marketing

Unit 6, The Enterprise Centre, Kelvin Lane, Manor Royal, Crawley, West Sussex, RH10 9PE

John Bardsley, Managing Director

01293 312 001