Falling in and out of love with the Newsagent
This article was first published in August 2010 via the Linefeed blog and in issue 3 of LineRead available via print-on-demand. LineRead was exhibited as part of the Walker Art Centre exhibition, ‘Graphic Design: Now in Production’.
This is a big deal for me. Ever since I was a kid — regularly mooching up and down the luxuriously wide aisles of the Boronia Village Newsagency — the humble newsagent has always been my first stop when heading out. It’s the first place I seek out whenever travelling. Friends will tell you I have a hard time going past one without stopping by. I’m particularly embarrassed to recall a Christmas walk one year through an atmospherically empty London town — with my partner at the time — that included a brief diversion when I spotted a newsagency that looked like it was open, only to discover the staff were just utilising a quiet day to shuffle some stock around. See, embarrassing, huh. But then the local newsagency has always been my compass and my guide. This is no longer the case.
I want to say the iPhone has replaced the local newsagency as my first port-of-call for that familiar rush of information, but that’s not entirely true. I think I have just become tired of the newsagent’s lack of ambition. Newsagencies don’t change. A whole industry in flux swirls around them and they stubbornly stay the same — only with less and less titles to stock on their shelves. Our unambitious local newsagents are only partly to blame though. The crux of the problem with the waning appeal of the magazine stockist lies in distribution.
The most common method of magazine distribution is over complicated and severely outmoded. And it has been for a while now. The past few years have seen this interdependence — between the newsagent and distributors — eroded even further. You see, when the newsagent was the sole high street purveyor of printed periodicals distributors could hog-tie magazine publishers into highfalutin deals in exchange for stuff like eye level shelf positions, numbers of stores they could be stocked in etc. Not that publishers could be guaranteed that their chosen ‘sweet spot’ would be where their magazines would land, or…