What Bookstore Closings Mean for Niche Mags

A shift to farm stands, home improvement stores, QVC

First Borders goes away, and now Barnes & Noble has said it would close one-third of its stores over the next decade, or about 20 locations per year. While it’s not good news for print books, there’s another casualty: magazines, especially niche titles, given bookstores were the fourth-biggest retail category for single-copy sales in 2011.

“A person who buys a single copy of a magazine title may eventually decide to take a subscription, so the trial and conversion process is upset, to some degree, by what is happening with bookstore closings,” said Jack Hanrahan, the publisher of newsletter CircMatters.

To compensate for the lack of bookstore real estate, some publishers have turned to new distribution methods. Sandow, with high-end titles like Worth and Luxe Interiors + Designs, has branched out to private airports and home shopping network QVC. (To date, about 250,000 copies of New Beauty have been sold through the shopping network, said CEO Adam Sandow.) Mother Earth News publisher Ogden Publications has seen growth in home improvement centers and farm stores.

Niche publishers are also embracing that great hope of the magazine industry: digital sales. At Ogden, online sales of print subscriptions are booming, said publisher Bryan Welch, but, like in the rest of the publishing world, sales of digital editions aren’t proving a lifesaver just yet.