retail news in context, analysis with attitude

I got a number of emails yesterday about my “Face Time” commentary suggesting that the latest, dead-tree edition of Newsweek, which featured the Royal Wedding on the cover because it was put to bed too late to cover the killing of Osama bin Laden, was an indication of business model fast on its way to being obsolete ... and that all businesses need to be aware of when such things are happening.

MNB user jim Martin wrote:

Kevin, no offense intended...The fact is, no one today expects to get breaking news from print, but in a multi-generational / cultural / socioeconomic world the reasons and preferences for print only or print + online compared to online only are to numerous to mention.

And MNB user Jerry Lynch wrote:

Kevin, I suspect many people still read the Newsweek “Royal Wedding” issue you described as irrelevant while taking in the news of Sunday evening. Call it multitasking!  Since the dawn of radio, print has always faced the risk of being behind the story but has been able to stay relevant and valued. Monday the Newsweek  website had the story and I’m sure the next print edition will contain more and varied coverage of Bin Laden.  As we know obsolescence is all but guaranteed if you sit still.   Newsweek and other magazines aren’t standing pat but instead constantly reinventing themselves to make sure they provide value to their readers. That value proposition will continue to evolve and come in many forms- print, web, mobile, etc  and all of the above.

I understand that there are all sorts of reasons not to kill the dead tree editions of magazines right now - the culture hasn’t yet gotten to the point where everybody is getting all their information online. But I would argue that we will get to that point faster than anyone thinks, and that these publications need to be preparing for that eventuality now.

And, I think that newsweeklies are, perhaps, the most vulnerable to looking irrelevant. (And that Newsweek, for me, looks about as off-target as I can imagine.)

MNB user Jeff Folloder wrote:

Like you, I wonder why the US "news" magazines are not planning for the funerals of their flagship offerings.  They ceased to be useful for me long ago when their focus canted towards entertainment and fluff.  But in this age of instant information and a veritable fire hose of data flow, how is it that The Economist tends to be engaging, timely, thought provoking and insightful?  It's a print magazine and its relevance has only increased.  How can this be?

I feel the same way about The New Yorker, which consistently offers provocative, literate and thoughtful journalism. I guess it is a great argument for the notion that in the end, content is what will win out ... though I do think that how it is delivered will matter, especially to the next generation of consumers.

Regarding the repositioning taking place at Food Lion, one MNB user wrote:

Could their repositioning include the sale of one or more divisions that are dragging down their earnings?  I was in Florida on vacation recently, and visited a couple of their SweetBay stores.  They seemed to me to be stepchildren, forced to promote their price versus Wal-Mart and Publix, which in my opinion is not the game they need to be playing in that market at this time....they don't seem to have a positive niche...

Yesterday I took note of the fact that Walmart is going to begin selling Amazon’s Kindle, which led one MNB user to write:

Careful, Kevin - your praise for Amazon marketing its Kindle at Walmart is in direct conflict with your previous stances against restaurant brands selling their branded products in grocery stores.  Share of stomach and all that?

The same logic should apply whether you're talking about e-readers, cars or salad dressing, right?

Well, you’re half-right.

When I raised that criticism of restaurant brands being sold in supermarkets, which I argued was counter-productive because those restaurants are in the business of taking sale away from supermarkets, I was actually arguing that it was the supermarkets that were making the mistake because they were unwilling to play hardball. I don;t blame the restaurants for trying to get their brands into supermarkets - it is a great way to build brand appeal. (I’m making a philosophical argument here about the battle for share of stomach.)

Using this argument, it should be Walmart that is leery about sending any business Amazon’s way, since Amazon may be its biggest and baddest competition.

Which is a good point, and I had not thought of it in those terms.
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