To many publishers, the newsstand is a dark channel. It’s a black box with little visibility of what’s going on inside. It’s a mix of greedy retail multiples and incompetent independent retailers, all of which are trying to squeeze as much profit as possible out of a declining category.

Added to that are a lot of reactive wholesalers who seem to be totally focused on stripping out costs, and overstretched distributors who over-promise and under-deliver.

In reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and thankfully, a lot more positive. We can see that from the daily work Wessenden undertakes, where we produce a mix of benchmarking surveys and offer hands-on operational consultancy.

An annual survey of magazine publishers showed they are increasingly polarised to the extremes. Here’s one extreme: that retail is just a slow motion car crash, with publishers shifting money out of retail and into subs and digital as fast as they can.

Here’s another view that’s a bit more balanced: that retail remains at the core, and although it’s challenging, will have more potential. But we all just need to be a bit smarter.

One simple example of this is improving communication with your retail buyers and putting yourself in their shoes. Where are they coming from? How do they make money from what you’re doing? What is driving them – are they going for more market share or volume? Do they want retail sales value growth or are they more interested in getting as much trade investment from you as possible?

By Jim Bilton, managing director of Wessenden Marketing.