Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Oh, and We Sell Newspapers, Too: Newspapers Find New Revenue Selling a Wide Variety of Merchandise

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Oh, and We Sell Newspapers, Too: Newspapers Find New Revenue Selling a Wide Variety of Merchandise

Article excerpt

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MERCHANDISING HAS LONG BEEN AN after-thought at newspapers. They might

offer reprints of photos, a book commemorating some sports championship and a small selection of T-shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with the paper's flag. Newspaper stores commanded little management attention and traditionally generated negligible revenue.

But as newspapers look for new revenue streams, some are re-thinking their approach to merchandising--and what they can offer to readers. These days the newspaper stores are offering a lot more than reprints of their 1969 "Man Walks on the Moon" front page.

Model airplanes, wine, hippie-era concert posters, antique maps, wood from the Titanic--you can purchase any of it at a newspaper. Outside the U.S., the goods available range even farther a field from any connection to the newspaper.

The British national paper the Guardian, for instance, offers cottage rentals, duvets, CD players, plant seeds and dozens of other gift items. It has an entire "Guardian Fashion Store" offering shoes, suits and pajamas.

The Telegraph in London makes about a quarter of its profit selling things, notes Jeff Jarvis, media educator and author of What Would Google Do? "They are the leading retailer of clothes hangers in the U.K.," he says.

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America's national newspapers haven't gone quite that far--yet. But they are making outside-the-newspaper offers to appeal to their higher demographic readers.

In just the last year, for example, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal launched wine businesses. Readers who join the Discovery Club at WSJwine receive a 12-bottle case of wine every three months, and are billed about $70.

Wine is a sensible extension of the Times brand, says Alice Ting, executive director of brand development. "Like a lot of newspapers, we were looking to expand into different verticals," she says. "If you think of the newspaper, we report on dining and food and home and health, so we've always looked at whether there was a way to extend the brand into those areas."

Research showed Times readers had a "very strong affinity toward wine consumption and spending on wine," Ting says. The readers also wanted to learn more about wine.

From photos to patent models

The Times for years has been an active merchandiser, but like most newspapers it limited its offerings to things it could pull from its archives.

"We started out with just photographs, and had great success," says Jim Mones, director of the Timed online store. "Then we extended to other kinds of content, still focusing on Times content." The paper offered historic front pages, personalized sports books, even "birthday" books with pages from the newspaper on the day someone was born.

"As time went on, we moved from photographs and into fine art prints," Mones adds. "We are probably now one of the world's leading sources of fine arts prints in general."

From there the offers expanded "naturally," he adds.

The Times has a simple approach in deciding what to merchandise, Ting says: "We always look to see if it is a fit for the brand, and secondarily, is it something our readers would be passionate about. It's always brand first and then our customers. …

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