It was only a few years ago that Marvel was following the Panini model by collecting 2-3 copies into one and selling them on newstands for $3.99 or $4.99. It was seen as a solid way to "get them when they were young", expanding out, beyond the traditional comic store.
But of late, Marvel has been calling digital the "new newsstand". So what happens to the old one?
I now understand that Marvel is all but withdrawing from newsstand distribution. The phase is a "greatly reduced" newsstand service and I've heard from some comic stores who use the newsstand distribution system for some stock that there are no Marvels coming in to them at all.
I'm told that newsstand accounts no longer being serviced by older methods are being turned into direct market Diamond accounts with Marvel's assistance and any account looking to order comics can contact Diamond.
But for those that operate on the returnable system, it might be a bridge too far to go to direct sales – what do they do with unsold stock? Newsstands rarely have any back issue sections. Mind you neither do many comic shops these days
Marvel first took its fledgling steps into the direct market, in the seventies, selling their comics non-returnably to Phil Seuling and his Seagate Distribution, letting comic shops order individual quantities of the comics they wanted and getting them to the shelves fast – a real novelty at the time. Over the years the direct market grew, then dominated the industry, conglomerating into Diamond Comic Distribution. But newsstand distribution remained a real, if diminished, route to sales. And more importantly, available for young children to buy in local shops on an impulse buy – and potentially turning into comics fans over the decades to come.
The newsstand is under threat in America as it is, comics seem to be a vulnerable side to that. While Hastings and Barnes & Noble have tried to replicate the experience for a mass audience, they are using Diamond to do so.
Digital is being seen more and more as a way to recruit readers. The newsstand, what with the increasing copies required to be printed for each and every reducing sale, is becoming more and more expensive for publishers.
And Marvel has just left the building…