March 15, 2016 Last Updated 10:14 am

Broken record: Newsstand sales fall again in final report for 2015

Another ugly year for newsstand sales concluded with fourth quarter sales down 7.6 percent. For all of 2015, newsstand sales revenue was down about 13 percent, according MagNet.

Nonetheless, you will still hear in 2016 those that proclaim that print is back. Even MagNet, who should have some idea what is going on, is pushing print.

“We would urge those publishers who have lost interest in the newsstand business as they shifted their focus to digital, and have learned that the investment in that platform is difficult to monetize due to lack of advertising revenues, to rethink their position relative to print and the newsstand. If you can produce good quality titles with relevant content and provide it to consumers at a price that provides value, you can make money. Many publishers who follow this formula are doing well at the newsstand,” the company urged publishers.

Too late, this is not where things are heading.


Yes, it is true that most magazine publishers are not going to be depending on their digital editions. Print publishers never liked digital editions, and like book publishers and eBooks, have done what they could to make a mess of them. But that doesn’t mean major magazine publishers are doubling down on print.

What is happening is that many are trying to create collections of their titles that will appeal to lucrative demographics in order to better sell digital advertising. Millennial women being the demo most often sought after – but there are others like tech, and gamers, etc. Titles that don’t fit that goal are shuttered or sold off. Ultimately, the real value of many titles will not be in their print readers or advertisers, but in how they attract web readers so that their audiences can be added to that of other titles in the group. Ironically, this might save a few titles that will see their print magazine shuttered, but their websites maintained.

The trade press that covers the magazine business has all but given up on print themselves. My guess is that the last of the US trade magazines covering the industry will drop its print magazine this year – it has really been an events company anyways. It would be hard to blame them: few who sell into the industry are big believers in print (or even digital) advertising, but don’t mind buying a small booth every once in a while at an industry event, assuming it is in NYC.

The only thing that would turn this situation around would be if companies that are at the heart of the industry today would support it with their marketing dollars: Adobe, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook – but what are the chances of that? Publishers are minnows in a vast ocean of customers, according to the way consumer tech companies think. They are right, of course, but it still doesn’t feel good.

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