by Karlene Lukovitz
Editor, MBR Daily Publishing & Retail News
After last year’s MBR Conference, a committee of MBR members set out to create a template to serve as a basis for presentations to retailers — presentations that consistently and powerfully convey the full value and relevance of magazines and books to retailers and their customers.
The group, chaired by Erin Reilly, director, distributor national accounts at Penguin Random House, released the formal presentation early this year. (Available to all for downloading on the MBR site.)
Called “What If We Leveraged Everything Magazines and Books Have to Offer?,” the presentation summarizes the latest data on publications’ exceptionally strong true profit contribution; recent sales and launch success stories; and evidence of publications’ continuing appeal and high saturation among all age groups (including Millennials and Gen Z) and the superior quality and engagement experience of print versus digital. It also presents the data showing that magazine and book buyers are retailers’ best customers, with basket sizes far above the average for shoppers in general.
In a first for the publications industry, the presentation also goes beyond traditional measures to make the case that books and magazines are uniquely positioned to connect with consumers and bring excitement to the customer experience.
The “Leveraging Everything” presentation lays out areas of new, collaborative opportunities for publications and retailers, including creating pre-shopping-trip engagement; meal solutions and planning; shared databases; click-and-collect cross-merchandising; social media promotion; special events; digital couponing; continuity programs; digital apps; and shopper information and resources.
It also outlines specific examples of “good, better and best” opportunities in each of these areas. (See MBR president Jerry Lynch’s column for the MBR Daily Publishing & Retail News newsletter for more specifics.)
Leveraging Publications’ Added Value at Retail
In a session during the 2018 MBR Conference, several members of the “What If We Leveraged Everything” committee underlined some key points in the presentation and how the industry can engage retailers by employing publications’ many added-value benefits.
Brian Beaudry, EVP consumer revenue Bauer Media Group, noted that while the industry has real challenges, “we also have great product and great people, and benefits that our category should be driving home to retailers.”
He stressed that positive results are seen when retailers that are proponents of magazines and books — like Barnes & Noble and the airport retailer OTG — work with the categories to promote and display the products. (Some retailers have reportedly seen magazine sales trends that are flat to down by single digits —performance considerably more positive than the overall retail industry.)
“We need to get more supermarkets and mass merchandisers to understand that in addition to delivering exceptional profitability and higher register rings, we bring much more to the table,” Beaudry said. “That’s what led us to this ‘leveraging everything’ project.” Given the short timeframes for meetings with traditional retailers, “we’re recommending that you use pieces of the presentation,” he added. “Select data and analysis pertinent to the specific retailer,” and present some specific ways that the category might work with the retailer to drive sales of publications and other products, and engage and enhance the shopping experience of customers, he urged.
Jay Annis, VP, business manager for Hello! and Hola! magazines, said that he doubts that many retailers are aware of core category stats like true profit margins of nearly 21% for magazines and 14% for books (nearly triple the margin of the next-highest category, batteries), as reported in Willard Bishop’s latest Super Study.
“This is fourth year in a row that print book sales have been up—and despite the predictions of gloom for print back five or six years ago due to ebooks, print books now account for 81% of the market,” he added. “Further, according to MRI studies, 91% of adults read print magazines, and 94% of those under 35, and under 25, are reading print. Millennials actually prefer print format in books and mags over digital — they spend 82% of their reading budgets on hard copies. These are dramatic facts that may not be reaching retailers. They’re certainly not presented in the general media.”
Noting that the data also show that consumers are actively looking for books in-store — and that in-store display is still by far the most important channel driving awareness of books — Annis stressed: “That tells us that we need to get books and magazines physically in front of people. So I challenge this group to look again at promotional spending in our retailers to get books and magazines in front of people in the ways we traditionally invested in. And I challenge the retailers, as well, because we need promotions and new display areas that are going to generate the sale.”
“We are a natural partner for brick-and-mortar retailers because we’re one of the only products in store that has the ability to improve the shopping experience,” stressed Tom Pirozzi, SVP marketing and publisher services at Meredith’s Time Inc. Retail, another member of the presentation committee.
“Likewise, there are very few products in store that can actually drive additional consumption,” he said. “Take a cookbook or cooking magazine. The publication itself may be $5.99 or even $13.99, but then buying the ingredients for a recipe may add another $40 or $45 in retail revenue. We should bring to the attention of retailers and work with them to collaborate to see how we can better leverage that strength.”
Pirozzi cited tactics and initiatives that have worked particularly well at retail. These include using FSI coupons good on a purchase of one or more magazines to drive pre-shopping-trip engagement with consumers; using digital to promote print issues and drive readers to stores; and using custom content tailored to a specific retailer in-store to drive consumption of publications and other products. He suggested that the category and retail partners should also do more to exploit the in-store opportunities in magazine and book content based on big pop-cultural events, like a new “Star Wars” movie.
“At Meredith, we’ve used social media mining with great success,” Pirozzi reported. “We identify specific topics that are trending, look at who’s posting about those — what their demographic profiles are and whether they’re buying our mags. Then we build a model and target people just like them that aren’t yet buying our magazines — using targeted emails, Catalina, loyalty card programs where shoppers receive get coupons at point of purchase.”
Meredith also uses purchase history to cross-promote. “If they bought a cookbook on healthy eating, we’re giving them coupons for magazines with content like that as well,” Pirozzi said. “And coupons drive return visits for our retailers, as well as magazine sales.”
[Editor's note: Also see MBR Daily's "Leveraging Everything, Part 2" coverage, and an audio recording of the session, are also available on MBR's site.]