Alpha magazine faces newsagents’ boycott

alpha-magazine-april-2009Alpha magazine is facing a newsagents’ rebellion which could threaten its position as Australia’s top selling men’s monthly after it changed its terms of distribution without consultation.

Alpha was launched in 2005 as a sister title to News Ltd’s newspapers. Unusually, customers had to buy a newspaper when they picked up the magazine. Newsagents got a much larger greater slice than they normally do for magazines and in return gave Alpha a higher profile in their stores.

But News Magazines has now changed the deal, triggering threats of a boycott of Alpha by angry newsagents who say they’ll remove it from displays in a bid to hurt sales. The move sees many newsagents get roughly 40% less for each copy they sell, no longer enjoy the lucrative home delivery business, while the magazine will now be supplied directly to supermarkets rather than viia the newsagents.

They learned of the change in a note from publisher Rob Pegley, previously Alpha’s editor. The change threatens a collapse in the magazine’s current circulation, which News puts at 113,000, making it the country’s top selling men’s monthly.

The row, which included News Magazines handing distribution of Alpha to NDD, was revealed in the Australian Newsagency Blog, which reported:

Newsagents are white-hot with anger toward News Ltd about this move with Alpha. They feel “conned”, “ripped off”, “cheated”, “abused”. This is the issue of the moment among newsagents.

In a later posting, the blog added:

In the pages of their newspapers, News Ltd paints themselves as champions of small business, yet in their boardroom they make decisions which hurt small business. There is no good news for small business newsagents in the Alpha decision by News Ltd.

Having launched and built Alpha sales to an excellent level, newsagents are to lose margin, customers and other benefits.  This is an arrogant profit focused decision by News Ltd.

Newsagents also joined in, with furious comments on the blog including:

  • Once again, News Ltd have shown their disdain for the newsagency industry with their typically arrogant approach to Alpha. Alpha is now destined for a 100% early return as far this little black duck is concerned.
  • In one word – Disgusting. I will no longer be stocking Alpha
  • It won’t be sold in my shop either. Due to the fact that I am one of the circa 600 agents nationwide that NDD have decided it is now not economically viable to supply, I won’t even receive the title and as a consequence naturally won’t be able to supply in turn to my subagents.
  • No shelf space , no sale and early retun. No real loss to me, but a compounded loss to News…time to teach some lessons to those that abuse us.
  • Alpha will be removed from my shop
  • Outside of News Ltd’s cutting of margin and stealing Alpha home delivery business from newsagents is their cynical attempt to hide the decision by announcing it late Friday. I bet they hoped it would get lost over the weekend.
  • Alpha magazine will not be leaving the storeroom once it is delivered. How long before they realise they have screwed us for the last time…. if we all stick together not so long
  • Alpha has just died from my shop!
  • Alpha in our business will now be killed off. Our Associations need to make it very clear to News of their members disgust, at this decision.
  • We all know what happens when a mate does the dirty on a mate. No more favours. Popular Science has now replaced Alpha’s prime position. (Also in no less than six locations).
  • I think about the big picture with these things. If we don’t put it on the shelf there are ramifications like writers, photographers, etc, etc, possibly losing their jobs because of the lack of income coming in from the magazine. But enough is enough, I’m sick of being the fool who lets our industry “partners” treat us like nothing. If we all don’t put it on the shelf and journos and photographers etc lose their jobs I don’t care. I’m sick of being the one to pick up the slack.
  • Removed from prime real estate. I have Burkes Backyard their now.
  • I’ve got Popular Science – I like their initiative. Alpha is on a shelf in the back room sulking.
  • Alpha? What Alpha? Oh, the one hiding behind Rugby League Week?
  • Likewise, am hiding it away from the front newspaper stand
  • While not a huge seller for me, i will continue to stock alpha, but it has lost its right to VIP treatment, it is now just another mag and will be treated as such, and join the rest in the sports section.
  • We MUST draw a line in the sand and this is it! Newsagents will get walked over time and time again and it’s time for us as a group to stand up to it. What makes the Alpha decision so wrong is that News Ltd have been deceptive and dishonourable, playing newsagents along until it suited them to unload the distribution

alpha-new-ideaMeanwhile, New Idea, published by rival Pacific Magazines, is one beneficiary of the row. The Australian Newsagency Blog published a picture showing how one newsagent had turned its Alpha rack into one for New Idea.

Mumbrella approached News for comment late on Friday. There had been no comment at the time of posting.

Update: The changes are covered in the media section of today’s Australian, which is also published by News Ltd. In the piece, News Magazines CEO Sandra Hook says:

“Alpha was the only magazine of the 32 we carry which was distributed by the News Limited trucks.

“Its distribution pattern was formulated by circulation managers in six states and … we wanted to bring it back into the business. It makes sense for managing our distribution footprint and there are economies from doing it out of a central point.”

The article also points out that circulation of Alpha has fallen  to 105,000, rather than the 113,000 currently claimed on the News Ltd site.


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