Newsagents need to get tough with publishers over what they stock, says NewsLifeMedia CEO

The boss of publishing house NewsLifeMedia has said newsagents need to be more critical about the range they stock and emulate the way that supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths operate.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Publish conference, Nicole Sheffield said: “Every time there is a range review [at a supermarket] it’s got nothing to do with anything emotional, social, digital – it’s what that pocket is yielding me and if it’s not doing it, you’re off the range.

Nicole Sheffield

Nicole Sheffield: Publishers need to help make newsagencies a destination again

“Newsagents are under enormous pressure. There’s a lot less of them. Running a newsagency today is a very difficult, challenging business. You’ve got print products that are in decline and you’re heavy reliant on lotto.

“People used to go there for a lot of different reasons and we have to be a reason to make them a destination again.”

Sheffield’s comments followed those made by Ash Hunter, the chairman of Publishers Australia and CEO of Hunterfive Group, who said the influx of new, poorly trained newsagents is causing problems and it is something the print publishing industry needs to address.

“There is a fundamental failure that’s taking place within the newsagency network and part of it is quite challenging, it’s around cash flow,” he said.

“Many of the new newsagents coming in don’t understand the business as well as they should and they have to manage cash flow.

“When you get sent a whole bunch of magazines you now owe distributors a bunch of money. You have to manage your returns, consider how you place magazines, what you send back and what you don’t and make sure your accounting is done properly. Fundamentally these newsagents, especially the new people entering the marketplace, don’t understand how to run that business.”

Hunter admitted it was hurting his business. Hunterfive includes Just publishing group which publishes the likes of Just Cars, Just Bikes and Just Trucks and Autotrader, which is an automotive publishing brand operating out of Western Australia.

“We have newsagents, once the agency has changed hands, stop paying their bills,” he said.

“Distributors can’t send magazines to them anymore. They go to a third party who send them magazines at a lower rate, they’re chasing their tail to pay their bills and eventually they close or they reduce their range.

“The issue is reducing range and sending back their returns. This is an area where part of the (print) decline is due to neglect to that distribution network.”

He said it was handing the power to the likes of Coles and Woolworths who typically stock magazines from the larger publishers like Pacific Magazines, NewsLifeMedia and Bauer Media.

“It’s probably ostracising those niche, print based publications that aren’t taking advantage of new media, different means of distribution and new ways to engage with their audience. There is an issue around power. Supermarkets work on a yield per pocket.”

Magazine Publishers Australia (MPA) is running a pilot program testing changes to the code of conduct for newsagents in an effort to make them more competitive with supermarkets. Mark Fletcher, director of newsagency marketing group newsXpress, has previously warned that the proposed changes to the distribution model will continue to leave newsagents at a disadvantage against supermarkets.

Miranda Ward


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