Ten years ago the then federal Minister for Small Business Joe Hockey launched the magazine distributor and newspaper publisher mandated new newsagency training program at the offices of the ANF in Sydney. I was at the launch and supported the introduction of the training.
The goal of the five-day training program was to ensure that all new newsagents had a consistent base level of training in the operation of a newsagency, especially newsagency-specific aspects of the business.
Over time, with course materials not keeping up with real-world changes, tough training requirements from the various lottery businesses and other obligations on new newsagents, the ANF course faded in relevance.
A few months ago, the five day training requirement for new newsagents was dropped. Neither the magazine distributors or newspaper publishers require that such training be undertaken.
While it is good that this barrier to entry has been removed and that training that had become irrelevant was no longer forced on new newsagents, it’s appropriate to take a moment to think about this move and consider what it could mean, if anything. For example, does the removal of the requirement of training mean our channel is not as important as it once was?
My understanding is that those behind the decision say the training requirement was eliminated because it was not making any difference. If that was the case they could have driven changes to the training since they had exerted control over training course content in the past.
It’s is interesting to think this through. On the one hand we want to be treated the same as other magazine and newspaper retailers but then we could worry when special treatment or attention is removed.
While I doubt we would get a completely honest answer, I’d like to know from magazine publishers and distributors whether they see us as relevant today as they did ten years ago. I think we need to ask this question. If we look at the regulation and monitoring imposed on newsagents via XchangeIT we could say that nothing has changed. But if we consider the elimination of the requirement for consistent basic training for new entrants to the channel I am not so sure.
While many newsagents are angry at the treatment of the channel by some magazine publishers and the two major magazine distributors and may not care about the training, I think we need to consider it a reflection on bigger issues, bigger challenges for us.
What do our businesses look like without magazines? I for one would not like to see this. However, I want fair and equitable supply. Unfair and inequitable supply makes me think about life without magazines – but on my terms. The removal of the training requirement leaves me wondering if the decision about the future of magazines in the channel is being made elsewhere.