MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace 2013: Getting Magazines to Market

Philadelphia, PA | The 2013 MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace opened Monday and wraps up today in Philadelphia. Publishing Executive had the chance to sit in on some interesting presentations. (After all, they came to Philly — it’s the least we can do!)
Mary Berner, President and CEO of The Association of Magazine Media (MPA) started the conference off with her usual energetic call to action and to “innovate, innovate, innovate.” Next up, PE’s own Dr. Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni led a panel discussion of magazine CEOs including David Carey of Hearst, Steve Lacy of Meredith, Bob Sauerberg of Condé Nast, and Efrem (Skip) Zimbalist of Active Interest Media.
Overall, the message heard from the podium had to do with how publishers and retailers can work together to address declining sales, issues posed by new technology, and other challenges to drawing consumer attention and purchasing. David Carey says, “We have to work with retail community to find the solution to the mobile blinder factor,” i.e. the way everyone stares at their mobile phone at checkout, not at the magazines on display. Bob Sauerberg says, “This industry has brands and assets and editorial/editors like no other. We have all accumulated incredible digital assets and our digital assets are best thing that ever happened because they’re bringing new people into the brand.”
New initiatives created so far include making more use of the cover, which might include QR codes, as Lucky magazine did recently or Hearst’s use of the “belly button,” a discount code right on the “belly” of the magazine. Ideas include “increased promotional activity on every level.” At Hearst and elsewhere, it could be TV — HGTV is “helping to sell issues” — or Spanish language US editions. At Meredith, it’s paying attention to changing shopping habits, noting consumers who may be spending less time in the supermarket and more time in big box stores such as Costco. Meredith is also poly-bagging a new brand (a print edition of recently-acquired with more established ones to introduce it to consumers.
The bookazine is a favored approach for reaching consumers. Publishers think this higher quality and higher priced SIP can be a better value with longer shelf life. Husni says that 600 of last year’s 800-plus new magazines were specialty issues, curated and targeted to specific audiences. This approach has, according to Sauerberg, “big sales potential over the next few years,” and publishers “need to get better at it.”
Active Interest Media is doing a lot of promotions with mobile, and finds “their traffic to mobile is up 30-50%.” Says Zimbalist, “people want to see different products on mobile.” They foresee increased use of mobile location devices, perhaps sending consumers a text “when we know they’re at a store that sells our magazines.” Watch out buyers, geolocation means they know where you’re shopping. (And they’ll send you coupons!)
Numerous experts on the retail side, including Keith Anderson, VP Digital, RetailNet Group, and Mark Deuschle, VP, Business Development, and CMO, GMDC, alerted conference goers to be ready for big changes in retail settings. Stores will not be expanding or building out, but rather finding new ways to better utilize existing space, and developing new modes of display. The more the magazine industry participates in developing new display ideas, the more it will improve the bottom line.
Sauerberg of Condé Nast concludes: “We’re going to blink and there are going to be massive programs at retailers for all kinds of ways to interact with consumers at retail. All kinds of data will be driving us.” Says Hearst’s Carey: “Newsstand will become one of many, many different ways customers access our content.”