Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In-store displays are killing the book section

The Los Angeles Times is planning to kill off its Sunday book review section, according to the Wall Street Journal, joining a trend:
Sometime this spring, the Los Angeles Times is expected to announce that it is folding its highly esteemed Sunday book review into a new section that will combine books with opinion pieces. That would reduce to five the number of separate book-review sections in major metropolitan newspapers still published nationwide, down from an estimated 10 to 12 a decade ago. The reason: not enough ads.

Book publishers in recent years have moved away from buying ads in standalone book-review sections in favor of paying to stack mounds of books in the front of chain bookstores. Some small literary publications, such as the New York Review of Books, are showing growth, but the book review as a separate section is endangered not only at the Los Angeles Times but at other major newspapers like the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune.
The trend toward in-store is, of course, not unique to the book biz, as we all know.

In an era of targeted marketing, publishers say the best time to reach readers is when they are in the stores with money in their pockets looking to make an immediate purchase. But with a sea of titles in the stores ... the only way for publishers to stand out is to pay for real estate in the front and pile those books up high.

"You want to see your books in prominent places," says Tom Perry, associate publisher of Bertelsmann AG's Random House Publishing Group. "Such co-op advertising is where marketing dollars are going that might otherwise have been spent on advertising." ...

One publisher says that chain bookstores can charge $1 or more per book to stack titles in desirable locations, such as on a table at the entrance or in a display featuring new nonfiction titles.

This is one of those items where we see the confluence of so many trends -- media fragmentation and the death of newspapers, retail consolidation, the increase in in-store merchandising, and the spread of CPG marketing tactics to consumer durables.

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