City and regional magazines’ “darkest hour” at retail

While spending money to lose money may seem a fatalistic and less-than-sound business strategy, the retail “billboard” philosophy makes sense. Your advertisers are in the marketplace, and they want to see your masthead everywhere they can.

Do city and regional magazines belong in the retail environment? Absolutely. We have the same local relevance of place as the (distributor less) newspapers you will find in all channels of retail sales (groceries, drug stores, convenience stores). It is often the one-size-fits-all RDA’s (retail display allowances)2 that are the impediment to success.

Is it heady to see my title next to People at a checkout? Sure. But just as we advise our sales teams to sell with conscience—for example, figuring out if a smaller restaurant can turn the tables enough to support an ad campaign—retailers have to see that declining sales and margins make it harder to justify egregious slotting fees.

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Bo Sacks comments on the aforementioned article:

John Palumbo makes a passionate discussion here for newsstand placement and retail problems in City and Regional Magazines. But I want say, it’s not the darkest hour for all magazines in the genre. Take Our State Magazine, which celebrates life in North Carolina. To the best of my knowledge it is thriving and perhaps more so than any other regional magazine I am aware of. Why, you may ask?

A few months ago, I had lunch with my friend Bernie Mann, the publisher of Our State Magazine and asked what was, as Warren Buffett calls it, his Secret Sauce?  (For the record Bernie and I meet twice a year out of mutual respect and idea sharing. We both drive two hours to meet in the middle for lunch. It is always worth it.)

So, what is Bernie’s Secret Sauce? He says, “The reader.” Bernie says you have to love, cherish and respect the intelligence of the reader and never do anything that makes the reader ‘work’ to enjoy the magazine.  He goes on the describe what he means.  “No belly bands, no stickers on the cover, no stories continued in the back of the magazine, no ads disguised as stories with the word “advertisement” or “Promotion” in 2 point type.

Bernie says part of the Secret Sauce of his success is the idea that the advertising has to be bought not sold. He interestingly goes on to point out that in his opinion, “The model of ad agencies buying advertising in magazines is broken,” as agencies are more interested in making money from digital. Bernie’s answer is to go directly to the client.

If you want a role model for the City and Regional Magazine arena, I strongly suggest you check out Our State Magazine. To the best of my knowledge they are never under 250 pages per month and often much more.  You want success? This is it.

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