Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Austin Newspapers: Thinking Outside the Box

The newspaper boxes are yet another quaint little image of Austin life that seems to come straight out of the movies for foreign eyes. Whether paid or free (and we don’t have as many of either), Brazilian non-subscribers still buy their newspapers in newsstands and convenience stores.

I’ve got this class called “Magazine Management”, where we study what’s involved in putting a magazine together and marketing it, and I had one of those moments when something obvious you hadn’t realized suddenly hits you in the face: there are no newsstands in Austin. The term “newsstand sales” is still the industry jargon to refer to non-subscription sales of a magazine or newspaper, but there are hardly any actual newsstands left out of New York, Boston and Chicago. In the Western part of the country (meaning West of the Mississippi and South of the Ohio River – i.e., more than three quarters of the continental US), people get their periodicals either at their door or seconds before checkout at grocery stores.

Newsstand in Porto Alegre, Brazil

There’s more than just nostalgia around the vanishing newsstands: the core implication in their extinction is that people walk less, doing most of their business out of the house by driving. A lot of human interaction is lost when shopping means parking, going through store aisles followed by the echoes of your footsteps, sliding your card at the checkout and getting back to your car.

I think the newspaper box is something to be treasured: it is the middle ground between East and West in the US.

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