A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

How increasing outlets is damaging newspaper brands

I did a spot check yesterday of eight locations selling newspapers in my home town of Melbourne: two newsagencies, two convenience stores, two supermarkets and two petrol outlets. I did this because I sense that we (newsagents) are about to hear that publishers want their products in even more outlets – because they think that is the way to increase sales.

Here’s what I found from my visits:

  • Newsagents: Product stacked neatly, poster displayed and customers comfortable browsing. In each case the staff behind the counter knew when a particular feature would be in the paper I asked about. (I was sure to visit newsagencies with staff working who would not know me.).
  • Convenience stores: One had product stacked neatly and the second had papers displayed in an untidy way such that customers would dig deep into the stack to find a ‘clean’ copy. No posters on display. In each case I asked what day the TV guide came out and they didn’t know.
  • Supermarkets: Both had product displayed well if a little untidy with inserts on the ground near the stack and thereby leading customers to believe that they would have to dig for ‘clean’ product. No room to browse. No one to ask a product question of – there were people there but when I caught their eye to ask they looked away or became busy. No posters on display.
  • Petrol outlets: One was good, clean and tidy whereas the other was a mess with two titles mixed across two piles. In each case they could not answer simple questions about which day I could get the TV guide feature. No room to browse the newspapers. No posters on display.
  • Four channels visited and four different messages for the newspaper category. If I were brand manager for the newspapers involved I’d be awarding a strike against several of the outlets. The newsagents were consistent and offered added value.

    Sure, you would expect me to say that. I own a newsagency. My software company services 1,300 newsagencies. So I’m connected deeply with that channel. I am also truthful and my integrity is important to me. This was a fair survey and the results I report are accurate. I’m not saying every newsagent is a saint. However, most serve the newspaper brands well and publishers will have to go a long way before they find other retailers who will go to the same effort on their behalf.

    Newspaper publishers could gain more sales by working with the newsagent channel and proactive newsagent than they will get from chasing more outlets where their brand is not managed with consistency. There are newsagents around who have increased single copy sales by 10% and more whereas. The learnings from these businesses should be harnessed by then publishers and used to grow the business across the newsagent channel.

    My sense is that in the non newsagent channels newspapers are there as a shelf filler, the add on sales whereas in newsagencies they are core product and are treated with more respect.

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