Golf launch Swing takes new route to market via single retailer

Contract mag specialist River Publishing will distribute its first non-brand-owned title through American Golf shops

"Smart" publishers should be thinking about other routes to market than through the newsstands, according to the company behind a new golf title sold through a single retail chain.

Contract magazine specialist River Publishing has launched its first nonbrand- owned magazine, called Swing, which it says retains full editorial independence despite being exclusively available in American Golf shops.

River managing director Nicola Murphy said that although she didn't think the move heralded the death of the British newsstand, "it might make those retailers and distributors think about how much they charge".

She said: "The UK newsstand is a much more competitive place than it used to be with the advent of weeklies, and it's extremely expensive to take a title to market. Smart publishers, if they're not already, should be looking at other ways at getting a route to market that give the consumer and the retailer something that others don't have."

She added: "Whether other people do it, I hope they don't, but I suspect they will."

The title will be available every other month at the 70 American Golf stores, which control 25 per cent of the golfing equipment market in the UK.

River prints 50,000 copies of each issue and plans to be ABC audited by next year.

According to River, the deal keeps Swing's cover price at a comparatively low £2.50. The retailer is allowed advertorial space for free, but does not have any influence on editorial.

"Swing is owned by River so we can say what we like," said Murphy, "whereas with the customer titles, you aren't necessarily constrained, but you have to be careful what you say."

Swing will be edited by Martin Vousden, previously editor of Emap's Today's Golfer in the mid-1990s. Deputy editor is Stuart Turnbull, ex-editor of Good for Nothing, a free London lifestyle magazine which closed in December.

Vousden said the strategy of selling solely from a specialist retailer meant the magazine could give away free golf balls or gloves without the headache of covermounting, and that he, as editor, can get daily sales figures through American Golf at end of day stocktaking.

"Normally it would be six weeks afterwards,"

he said, "but getting a daily figure is completely new to me and it will take time to get a handle on that."

On the threat to newsstand sales, he added: "There are something like 3,000 magazines in the UK, and with the best will in the world, no one store will be able to stock all of those, so everyone in the publishing industry is looking for alternative distribution.

"That's not to say WHSmith and others don't do a really great job — clearly they are very successful at what they do. But we need to get the product into our customers hands as efficiently as possible."

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