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Vital Voice’s letter from the Publisher

16 Sep

In response to the STL Distribution scheme, take a look at Vital Voice Publisher, Darin Slyman’s – Publisher’s Letter, September 1, 2011 issue.

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Riverfront Times covers distribution plan by STLDistribution

13 Sep

Newspaper Distribution Plan Draws Fight from Sauce, Other Indie Publications

By Nicholas Phillips, Riverfront Times, Fri., Sep. 9 2011 at 9:10 AM

Key Considerations

8 Sep

Some of the questions people have posed in the comments sections are questions members of the Alliance asked before deciding to organize and unify efforts to communicate how this plan could potentially affect our readership, advertisers, business relationships and our publications’ respective viability.

Key things to consider:

1.)  What does this plan do and what purpose does it truly serve? It (potentially) prevents publishers from having a choice about which company should distribute their product and prevents business owners/retailers from having the option to select the publications that are offered at their establishments – those that most closely align with their respective demographics and target audiences.  The outcome of this potential plan far exceeds any possible benefit, particularly when rack maintenance is a hypothetical “problem” and not truly a concern of the retail masses.

2.)  Publishers already include rack maintenance services as part of their respective agreements with retailers. At any time, a retailer can request that a rack/publication be removed for lack of maintenance, but it simply hasn’t been a concern in the marketplace. Is maintenance a real problem, or a problem perpetuated by STLD?

3.)  If STLD is merely providing a solution to a “problem” why is the exclusionary language necessary in their contract? Why is it essential for STLD to control which magazines are permitted in “their” racks? Why not continue to allow the business owners to make that decision themselves? It is after all, their space. Who stands to benefit most from the inclusion of this language in the contract?

4.)  Why isn’t the amount that STLD would charge publications clearly stated in the contract? It could change each month, by large or small amounts at the sole discretion of the distribution company for any number of reasons it deems essential. If a fee is the base of their plan’s revenue model, why not assess the same fee to all the publications it distributes – those that are Lee owned and those that are not?

5.)  STLD isn’t a distribution company.  It’s a division of Lee Enterprises, which is a producer of magazines and newspaper content in STL. It is a competitive entity to publications not owned by Lee. And, it’s unrealistic to think/expect that a competitor would equitably serve the independent publications’ interests in the marketplace. Why would publishers put their free product into the hands of competitors and trust that their product would be given the same attention and care as the products in their competitor’s portfolio?

6.)  Distributors are paid for location drops by publishing companies, many of whom have elected, for one reason or another, not to do business with STLD. Publishers (not distributors) pay for the production of publication racks, which are donated at no cost to business owners as a courtesy for distribution.

7.)  Why didn’t STLD reach out to publishers to proactively instead of pursuing contracts with individual businesses and then claiming the publisher’s participation was key to the success of their program?

8.)  STLD could potentially charge publishers a distribution fee per location drop in addition to a rack placement fee in those businesses that have agreed to their plan. That could significantly increase their potential income from publishers (many of whom have elected not to use their distribution services for a number of other reasons). It would also, in turn, reduce the operating budgets/profit margins of each magazine’s publisher EACH month. Yet, business owners who participate in the plan would only stand to gain $25.00 a month and would lose the right to choose which publications were allowed in their establishment? How is that equitable? Ultimately, it benefits one party most significantly.

9.) Alliance publishers work hard to keep ad rates accessible and equitable for business owners in STL. Why would publishers agree to participate in a program that could increase cost of operation and ultimately lead to an advertising rate increase, particularly when that plan fails to benefit our customer base in any way?

ALLIANCE MOTIVATION:  It is our goal to proactively respond to the STLD plan based on feedback from local business owners who have been approached by their representatives and who believe this tactic is less than ethical and in poor taste.  We (collectively) have a responsibility to communicate the potential affects of this plan to our readership and advertisers – both of which have expectations about our publications’ distribution. We have no evidence, however, that businesses in STL are responding favorably to the proposed plan.

Free local publications may soon be hard to find | ksdk.com

7 Sep

View Jeff Small’s interview furthering the discussion of the distribution practice of STL Distribution.

NOTE: The Indie Alliance has not been able to confirm that local businesses are responding “favorably” to the STLD proposal as STLD claims in the video. The feedback that we’ve received are from those that have rejected or have intentions of rejecting the plan if presented. We have no knowledge of any business that have accepted their contract at this time.

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sauce Magazine’s Publisher’s Perspective

2 Sep

In response to the STL Distribution scheme, take a look at Sauce Magazine Publisher, Allyson Mace’s – Publisher’s Perspective, September 1, 2011 issue.

St. Louis Beacon article highlights scheme

29 Aug

Proposed plan on distribution of free publications racks up opposition

Published 8/29/11

Read full story here

Town & Style – Editor’s letter

29 Aug

In response to the STL Distribution scheme, take a look at Town & Style Editor, Dorothy Weiner’s – Letter from the Editor, August 24, 2011 issue.

What is going on? “Free” not free anymore?

7 Aug

Are your favorite publications missing from the familiar places you typically find them each week/month? Curious why?

STL Distribution, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lee Enterprises, an Iowa based media company, is resorting to a predatory distribution scheme that has the potential to devastate free local publications in our community. STL Distribution (STLD)  distributes The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Suburban Journals, and several free niche publications such as The Ladue News, Feast Magazine, Rides Magazine, and Your Next Home Magazine.

Representatives of STLD are aggressively pushing a contractual agreement with proprietors of all business persuasions throughout the City to accept payment in exchange for installing new magazine racks, which they will in turn maintain and control. When a business owner accepts their contract, they are in turn giving STLD the exclusive right to maintain and control which publications are included in the racks and are granting STLD permission to assess a fee of their choosing to any non Lee Enterprises owned publication.

The STLD contract we obtained indicates the following….

“Retailer agrees that the Rack will be exclusive and that Retailer will not allow any other racks or displays for the dissemination of free newspapers or any other type of free publication in any Location identified in the agreement. Retailer agrees that STLD will have sole discretion as to which publications are allowed to be placed in the Rack.”

This scheme was proposed to business owners as recently as the week of August 5th, 2011.
Contract from STL Distribution to Retailers
Example of proposed Racks

An inside source from the distribution industry, who wishes to remain anonymous, refers to this practice as a “deceptive, hale mary attempt to control or weaken the distribution and advertising margins of free weekly and monthly publications and to deter new competition from emerging.” He adds, “In most cases, business owners are not aware of what they are agreeing to, but by the time they realize it, the damage to the other publications is already done.” Circulation is drastically decreased as competing racks are removed along with all product not under the control of STLD, which may choose to distribute only Lee Enterprises owned publications. The advertising margins of those publications could be drastically weakened if business owners opt to allocate their marketing dollars for the publications that are readily available in their own establishments.

In St. Louis, this distribution scheme could impact Town & Style, ALIVE, Sauce Magazine, Vital Voice, The Healthy Planet, R3 St. Louis, Auto Source, Gateway Gardener all of which are members of the STL Indie Publications Alliance (STLIndiePA). Additionally, it could affect The West End Word, Kirkwood-Webster Times, Spiritseeker, Pathfinder, Eleven Magazine, Delux, Avid, and weekly publication The Riverfront Times (owned by Village Voice Media). This plan does not affect publications like the STL Post-Dispatch or Suburban Journals, which are offered at cost to readers and distributed through different means.

In light of all of this information, the St. Louis Independent Publications Alliance  was formed to help keep the local publishing voice strong and accessible. We are reaching out to the public for support to prevent this scheme from taking a hold on our market place and preventing the free distribution of information that is afforded to all publishers and media groups by the First Amendment. Make no mistake, members of this alliance are not threatened by the presence of Lee owned competition, which has the same right to distribute news and information. We simply want to equitably coexist, to pursue our passions, to make a living, contribute to the growth of our areas and to share our content with the public without gross interference on the part of Lee Enterprises and the free publications the company owns and distributes.

It’s clear to us that independent distribution is under attack on various fronts. News of the rack scheme comes just months after independent distributors and publishers received word from business owners that magazines and free newspapers were being stolen from locales within hours of their distribution schedule. While, at this time, it’s unclear who is behind the missing publications, the situation is currently being investigated. Some publishers in the alliance reached out to their respective distribution points directly to help curtail this practice and to keep business owners aware of the ways in which their magazines – many of which they advertise in and desire to provide to their customer base – were being mishandled. This practice of taking other entities publications is not only unethical, it is illegal.

We urge business owners, loyal readers & advertisers of the publications referenced above to reject these practices and to voice concern to Lee Enterprises, STL Distribution and those niche weekly and monthly magazines that stand to benefit the most from this scheme. Additionally, we ask for your support. Go here to Support. We urge those that are equally offended to help us spread the word via social networks and through conversations with friends & family members.

Lee Enterprises properties/publications that stand to gain from this scheme:

STL Distribution
The Ladue News
Feast Magazine
Rides Magazine
Your Next Home
GO!
to name a few…

_________

For reference on similar distribution schemes implemented by media conglomerates and to learn how it has impacted other business owners and the long term viability of independent publications, please visit the following links.

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/evening-post-publishing-seeks-to-monopolize-newspaper-distribution/Content?oid=1110991

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/gannett-creates-free-paper-distribution-company-in-greenville/Article?oid=145972

http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/goliath.php

About LE Financial Crisis – Lee Enterprises faces delisting from the New York Stock Exchange for the second time, with it’s current stock price hovering near its 52 week low at .71 per share (Aug. 7, 11). According to The Riverfront Times, Lee is saddled with roughly $1 billion in debt — which comes due in April 2012. And shares have tumbled from $35 per share in 2007 to less than a dollar. The company had announced plans to refinance its debt by selling junk bonds earlier this year, but it canceled the deal in May when it became clear there weren’t enough buyers willing to invest. See RFT  for complete story.

Our Twitter handle is @STLIndiePA

Thank you for your support.

Members of the STLIndiePA


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