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Thursday, August 26, 2010 | Posted by Andy@AmV | Edit Post
Where is American-V 42?
Sitting in my out-tray, while the one of the biggest news stories of our own history takes shape.
Simply put, we've gone about as far as we can as a bi-monthly publication and we're looking very seriously into the viability of going monthly, because of impending and imminent changes to the distribution channel, and I needed to get my head round that without requiring the services of men with long sleeved jackets.
You're all bright people and there's merit in explaining the thought process in exactly the same way as we approach a motorcycle, so if you're sitting comfortably?
Because WH Smiths – the country's leading newsagents – are changing a few ground rules and we need to make sure we can accommodate them. It will cost us money to stay in WH Smiths, in the form of a promotion across a number of issues, and we need to make sure we can cover that with increased sales.
We've had high level discussions with our distributors and we know that we can – we've actually increased our year-on-year sales through WH Smiths, which is very encouraging – and have put things in place to increase availability across the independent sector too, but the thing that keeps coming up is frequency.
The cynical among us – and I have been that cynic in the past – might construe that we are trying to squeeze more money out of our existing and loyal readers but the reality is actually simpler: too many potential readers have no idea that the magazine exists, or just don't see it on the shelves of their newsagents. They are the people whose attention we need to grab: we don't so much want to sell more magazines as much as sell magazines to more people.
To be more visible on the newsagents shelves. So that on the first Thursday of the month, every month, you will be sure of a new issue of American-V being on the shelf: no wondering whether one is due this month or the next. And equally importantly, so that on the previous day there will have been the old issue keeping its place warm – unless they've all been sold – as opposed to bi-monthlies which are typically removed from the shelves after six weeks.
We've looked at eight and ten issues a year, but frankly that just gets messy because it's almost impossible to let people know when to expect it to hit the shelves, and confusion is the last thing we need – quite apart from the havoc it'd wreak on subscriptions.
It will make events coverage more timely, and it will reduce the percentage of events coverage in any single issue because while we will cover more events: more events in total, but fewer pages per issue.
It will give us twice as many editorial pages per year, because we're not looking at reducing the number of pages in each issue. We will lose the perfect binding – the spine – in favour of staples for a couple of reasons, notably centre spreads and cover-mount opportunities.
We will also be able to consider putting American-V into supermarkets, because it's almost impossible – rather than just bloody expensive – to put a bi-monthly on their shelves.
How will we manage it?
Not alone. I considered cloning myself, but one of me is more than enough to inflict on the world. There will need to be other people involved to cope with the increased workload, and with different disciplines. We're talking to freelancers and to potential partners with complimentary skill-sets.
There will be no question of compromising editorial depth, photography or print quality. The advantage we've got compared to when we started is that we can show potential investors/partners what American-V actually is, rather than a vague business plan of what we hope it might become. And don't worry about what we'll fill it with because there's so much out there queueing to get in that we've got assured quality feature material for the foreseeable future: it will be great to finally get the space to commit it to paper.
It means we'll have more space for tech, for classics, for roadtests and for customs; we'll have space for dealer features, could even bring back classified ads – which work a lot better on monthlies – iof there's demand.
Is there a choice?
Yes, we could stay bi-monthly, but we'd still need to think about investment, and the return would be slower, so the deal would be less attractive.
We could come out of the newstrade completely – get into direct distribution again – but that would be a lot more risky, and I'm not sure we've got enough momentum to be able to make that work: again, the magazines that have worked using that model have been monthlies, because you really need to have built up that momentum to carry your through the transitional phase.
Exciting times, and your comments are very welcome.
Labels: American-V News