Why does Busted magazine get featured at the front counter?
February 24, 2013 1:01 AM   Subscribe

How does Busted magazine get to be featured at the front counter of stores?

Busted magazine, for those of you who don't know, is a slim tabloid-style publication consisting almost entirely of mugshots. There are local editions for several U.S.A. cities, with all the people pictured being from that city. Charming, I know, but the larger sleaze aspect isn't what interests me. It's this:

The magazine is placed prominently by the cash register.  No other magazine is featured in this way. Not Maxim, not Time, not any scandal sheet. How did it come to get such advantageous special treatment? If the store can be paid to put it up front, why don't other magazines do the same thing? I've seen it at nationwide chains, and I've seen it at small non-franchise places, and it's always there, sometimes pinned up so you can't miss it. How did they swing this special deal? Or is there something about the magazine that makes retailers feature it? Or a combination of these two? Cashiers say it sells like hotcakes, but I'm sure it wouldn't sell so much if it were mixed in with the other magazines. And it's been around a couple years now, so the novelty must have worn off for the people (like me) who bought it once because it was a hoot... but, it's still right up there.  So, does anybody have a clue what the deal is?
posted by Rich Smorgasbord to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in Virginia, and like bearette, I've never seen nor even heard of this publication. But my guess is that placement --- especially prime placement --- is decided by contracts and the occasional judicious application of cash.
posted by easily confused at 2:37 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Prime space like that is paid for by the publisher. A place I used to work at used to charge varying amounts for placement in different areas or for various kinds of highlighting such as display boxes.

Getting a guaranteed amount of money is often better for the retailer than hoping that something will sell.
posted by Solomon at 2:59 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

This might be a regional thing, since I've seen this magazine and noticed it's up there front and center, but other posters haven't even heard of it.
posted by Autumn at 3:34 AM on February 24, 2013

I've never seen it here in Los Angeles. There's usually a selection of titty mags not far from the counter, but that's about it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:17 AM on February 24, 2013

One more direct possibility is that this particular store was recently the victim of a robbery or something, and the manager wants this publication to have a prominent place.
posted by yclipse at 4:17 AM on February 24, 2013

I'm in Virginia and I've only heard of it because I work in a place with two offices (one in Arlington/urban DC area, one a few hours away) and it's pretty popular with almost everyone at the office in the small town. Some have told me they look through it for fun to see if they know anyone.

Maybe this sort of thing is just more prominently displayed because a lot of people read it? Kind of like how the local paper is also displayed prominently along with USA today/NY times/etc.
posted by fromageball at 4:26 AM on February 24, 2013

I worked for Bookstore From Ann Arbor That No Longer Exists for quite a long time, and I can tell you from experience that cash wrap magazine placement was purchased there by publishers on a weekly/monthly basis. Not sure about your store, but that's how chain bookstores do/did it.
posted by mintcake! at 6:09 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

One massive chain I worked for sent out regular updates every franchisee stating how each type of shelf had to be organized. You might think that the arrangement of 200+ brands of chocolate bar and gum in front of the cash register at a gas station is determined by someone at the store, but (at least at the place I once worked) it is absolutely not: every single item was decreed by chain of command to go in a very specific spot.

I always assumed it was based on what is most appealing to the consumer (read: what leads to the most sales), but it could just as easily be paid placement.
posted by matlock expressway at 7:18 AM on February 24, 2013

My guess is that it's cheaper, smaller, and more locally relevant than the other publications. Since it has a different distribution system and publishing model, it doesn't really work to stock it anywhere else. The local paper has a special rack, usually, and the magazines are a different size and get stocked by a different vendor in their own special area. And I bet the publisher's business model involves the sales rep telling store owners how well Busted does when sold in that register area.
posted by redsparkler at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2013

It might also be a matter of "you better DAMN well believe we prosecute the HELL out of shoplifters!"
posted by sexyrobot at 8:43 AM on February 24, 2013

It's almost definitely the publisher paying to put it up there, or more likely paying the company that does their distribution and marketing to get it in that position at those chains. A magazine like that has got to be incredibly cheap to produce, and it's unlikely that anyone is going to seek it out on purpose (unlike Time or another name brand magazine) so paying more to get it into prime impulse purchase territory makes sense. My father has worked in the magazine publishing/distributing business for decades; the placement of different magazines is absolutely something that's for sale.
posted by MadamM at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2013

If you're interested, by the way, Comag and Curtis are two companies that work in this field. Both of them give a sense of what goes on behind the scenes of getting a magazine into a store under the Services heading. Comag, for instance, employs merchandisers who "vigorously protect client title display positions" aka making sure that the right magazines are in the spaces that the publisher has paid for.
posted by MadamM at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2013

Or is there something about the magazine that makes retailers feature it?

I live in Austin, Texas, where Busted is veryveryvery easy to find right on the counter of the overwhelming majority of non-chain convenience stores. I've never bought one, but here are some reasons that might make retailers want to display Busted on the counter:

1) It's more like a newspaper than a magazine, in that its folded and printed on newsprint. It's a very thin and skinny publication, so it's not going to kill your counterspace. A stack of 20 Busteds take up waaaaaaaaaay less counter space than a stack of 20 copies of anything else.

2) It only costs like a dollar or something, which makes it very easy to sell to convenience store guys as an impulse buy.

3) It comes out more than once a month, so you don't have to ever display a month-old magazine on your counter.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2013

I think Busted is only published in the South--I'd never heard of it until I moved to New Orleans. Our local convenience store has them on the counter and it seems to be pretty popular.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 10:17 AM on February 25, 2013

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