In 1998 I was at Toy Fair in New York. It’s the world largest toy convention, held annually at the Javits Center. My company, Topics Entertainment, had a booth, and we were meeting with customers in the interactive section of the show. A fellow who set up websites and e-commerce businesses walked into our booth. We had a long talk about the rapidly growing Internet, and what my strategy should be for Topics Entertainment.
In a nutshell, he believed that within a few years — I think he said five — Costco, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc. wouldn’t exist, and the entire U.S. retail business would shift to the Internet. I was skeptical, but listened. Many of our competitors rushed to build e-commerce sites, and largely ignored traditional retail. Topics didn’t. We built a website, but refused to sell directly to the public and supported our big retail partners. In the end it was a successful strategy: Time and time again, we pointed out in meetings with big retail partners how we supported them and didn’t think doing an “end around” was wise ethically, or from a business standpoint. They in turn rewarded us with big orders and largely shunned several of our competitors.
Obviously the Internet has caused huge changes in how we all do business, and Amazon (small then, but huge now) has become a gigantic force for change. However, 16 years later, Costco, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Safeway and most of the other major retailers are still here. The moral of the story for me was simple: Change takes place, but it’s usually not as immediate and drastic as some would have us believe.
Marijuana Venture is now a year and a half old, and I’m frankly blown away by how fast this magazine has grown. With the October issue, we shot past High Times and became the biggest publication in the marijuana space. Our rapid growth makes sense: The marijuana world badly needed a voice for serious producers and retailers for years. We created that voice and publish articles that are relevant and valuable to the explosively growing legal marijuana business community.
Speaking of value, I recently read a great piece in the July print issue of Forbes. The article was titled “Print isn’t Dead,” and it pointed out something I’ve long believed. While digital delivery of information is a great thing, there’s still a huge demand for old-fashioned print. Why? For starters, the fact that it tends to get read more is one thing. While the Internet can be great if you’re looking for specific information, most digitally delivered “magazines” become little more than white noise after a while. I get many of them, and read very little of the content. It’s not because they’re bad, or even that I’m still mostly a print reader. It’s more about the tactile experience of a printed magazine, its instant mobility, and the fact that it’s convenient. Interestingly, studies have shown that readers are far more likely to believe something written in traditional print media, and also far more likely to buy something advertised that way. In the pot space there are literally dozens of internet “zines,” and it’s a major undertaking just to determine which ones have real, valuable info, and which ones are just another start-up with nothing more than regurgitated news taken from traditional media sites.
One of my favorite anecdotes in the Forbes article concerned a meeting the writer had with the publisher of Entertainment Weekly. The publisher was discussing all the calls he gets from Hollywood agents, and how each one wants to see his movie star client on the cover. The Entertainment Weekly publisher pointed out that while the agents aggressively push to see their stars in the magazine, they always ask for the print edition, and never mention the digital version. In other words, those Hollywood stars and agents understand something very basic about the traditional print magazine.
Being in print means something, and it’s a permanent record that’s still perceived as much more valuable than just another mention in cyberspace. I’m just saying …