Finally, an industry millennials aren’t killing.
Some people like to say print is dying because of digital. Some people like to say it’s because “People just aren’t buying that stuff anymore”. In any situation involving print publications and books, it seems everyone has their own theory as to what is actually happening. While it may be fair to speculate, it’s certainly not a license to make brash generalizations that paint a broad swath of people as “hopeless romantics”. Print in many ways is actually thriving, and just as vinyl has in the past ten years, is poised to make a comeback.
Niche publishing (what (SALT) is doing) is actually on the rise. Over the past 30 years, print publishing has actually risen by roughly 48%. More niche publications were started in the recent past than at any other time in history. And this trend shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
So why are we seeing the closure of corner newsstands, and why have larger publications like the Village Voice, of New York City, started to fold?
Recently, Al’s Newsstand in Fort Collins announced that it will close its doors after 71 years of serving the community. Al’s has been one of my favorite stores in town due to its peculiar mid-century charm. Lined with magazines from all over the world, it was one of the only places you could pick up a copy of Time Magazine, Juxtaposed, Harvard Design, and Outdoor Life all in one stop. When the news of Al’s closure hit the streets just about everything was blamed. Gentrification. The Death of Print. You name it, it was probably a reason on someone’s list. In reality, none of the above played a part whatsoever.
Timing is everything in the news and culture business. Distribution companies own all of the magazines and newspapers in newsstands until the business makes a sale. They are also responsible for shipping publications to businesses like Al’s on time. When TNG took over distribution for Al’s, they prioritized timely distribution to the highest grossing businesses, leaving Al’s to receive shipments unreliably and often months late. In the absence of consistent shipping, sales became inconsistent, and eventually, Al’s couldn’t compete.
So What’s Next?
As niche publishing continues to grow, so with it may grow some equally subversive methods of distribution. There is a Swedish company that recently built vending machine-style kiosks that print magazines on the spot. Other innovations of this sort will surely crop up to meet the demands that a consolidated market generates. However, sometime in the far future our generation will look back and remember a time when you could walk into a storefront, snag a bag of popcorn, and pore over hundreds of different publications from all over the world for hours, only to leave with a stack of 10 different publications, a pack of Dunhills, and a Coke.
P.S. The original idea to start a Magazine called (SALT) was born in Al’s Newsstand, so in many ways, we owe them everything. Thanks for all the support Al’s, you will be missed.