Newspapers into the future

There is an interesting debate happening on newsagencyblog.com.au (usually, but also right now) about newspaper distribution. I commented there, and this post elaborates slightly on that comment.

On distribution v retail:

They are two completely different types of businesses requiring different processes, skills, etc, and should be treated as such. There are pros and cons to each – but the main fallacy is to treat the home delivery customer as a lost opportunity. My advice to newsagents would be to embrace both PROPERLY and give it a crack. When you have exhausted all opportunities and are not making money, then enter into discussion with your supplier to resolve. I can’t take anyone seriously who have never proper done a subscription drive to grow the territory, or don’t even apply some technology to do proper route planning but rely on someone’s intuition and habits to run the business.

On publisher vs newsagent:

It is smart commercial thinking to build a partnership. If there isn’t that relationship, then ‘retailer’ is as much to blame as ‘supplier’. You can’t blame a publisher for trying to negotiate a contract – that is the nature of the ‘agency’ relationship. Equally publishers don’t blame anyone who chooses not to renew.

I am engaged with a publisher to help develop these relationships and the usual Pareto Principle applies. Only aboyuit 20% of the newsagents are proactive, willing to learn and change. Why should anyone care about a newsagent’s crumbling business model if they can’t be bothered to care about themselves?

On the future of newspapers:

News has a future. Period. What the product will look like is entirely different. Jeff Jarvis’s blog is recommend to everyone following the debate there too. The changing nature of newspaper distribution and the evolution of the physical product concerns and impacts the publisher as much as the retailer – and there is no blame to be apportioned. Forces outside the current industry structure will ultimately determine how things evolve.

My view is that I will pay $30 a month easily to get the truth in news. I pay whatever I pay now reluctantly and spend too much time thinking about what is propaganda and what is rehashed PR.

On retail:

The retail metric for newspapers are absolutely fantastic. Zero investment and 25% return PER DAY – is as good as anything I have ever come across in business. (GMROII). The low monetary value of the newspaper purchase in the shop is not a problem – it is an opportunity. You have a customer in front of you with the wallet open and hardly spending anything – and the usual response is… (thanks, cya later???).

Too many newsagents are habituated to suppliers/publisher thinking an deciding for them on everything from range to price and don’t take responsibility for their own businesses.

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