Newsstands around Latin America

The two most common ways of obtaining copies of newspapers and magazines are (1) by subscription and (2) by newsstand purchases.  Newspapers are obviously most often purchased at newsstands.  In Latin America, subscription copies of magazines often cannot be reliably delivered through the postal systems and must therefore be brought over by couriers.  As such, subscriptions may be quite expensive.  Furthermore, in the days of hyperinflation, selling subscriptions at fixed prices up front was obviously a money loser over time and publishers shied away from this practice at one time.  Consequently, newsstand purchases represent the most important delivery mode in Latin America for the print media.

We should point out that there exists a hybrid mode: the newsstand subscripton, whereby an arrangement is made with the newsstand operator to reserve a copy for pickup on a regular basis.  The subscription arrangement exists strictly between the purchaser and the newsstand operator, quite independent of the circulation department.  The newsstand obviously serves a vital role in this delivery mode.

According to the Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1998 study, 75% of the magazine copies of 32 pan-regional magazines were obtained via newsstands, compared to 25% via subscription at home or work.

Given the major role played by newsstands in getting the copies out, it is important to consider what factors might affect purchases at the newsstand level.  The fact of the matter is that not all newsstands are alike: some are indoors, some are outdoors, some sell print media only, some offer other merchandises and services too, some are tiny, some have large display areas, some are open all the time, some have limited hours, and so on.  In the following, we show and discuss a number of photos of newsstands around Latin America.  We took these photos on our many trips, and they are not meant to be a scientific sample.

  1. Montevideo, Uruguay (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This is the classical newsstand, with a roof to block the elements.  The sides are draped with publications and snacks.  There is sufficient space to set up a horizontal display area in front.
  2. Santiago, Chile (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This is an efficient use of space.  The kiosk itself is a small structure with just enough room to accommodate the operator.  The sides of the kiosk are completely draped with newspapers, magazines and snacks.
  3. Caracas, Venezuela (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This is more like a kiosko that sells snacks and other goodies, and incidentally some magazines on the side.  This newsstand is located next to an entrance to the Metro subway system, and is therefore assured of heavy pedestrian traffic.
  4. Mexico City, Mexico (photo credit: Roland Soong)  This is the minimalist newsstand.  The display stand consists of two wire frames leaning against each other.  On the top two rows are the best-selling newspapers in the city (El Universal, Excelsior, La Jornada, El Sol de México, etc), and the bottom three rows contain mostly comics (Uncle Scrooge, Barbie, X-Men, Batman, Los Simpsons, etc) plus the local TV Guide.  More interesting is the question, "Where is the operator?"  He is sitting in the gap between the two wire frames in order to get out of the sun!
  5. Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: Roland Soong):  This newsstand offers a large variety of newspapers and magazines, all neatly sorted and classified.  Furthermore, it is open twenty-four hours a day (this photo was taken at 530am!).  This is your dream neighborhood newsstand!
  6. Bogotá, Colombia (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This is an indoor newsstand which has ample space to build shelves in which the publications are neatly sorted and stacked.
  7. Mexico City, Mexico (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  There are a number of unusual features about this newsstand.  First of all, it is right on the street, not on the sidewalk, sharing the road with cars.  Second, the magazines on the side are put behind a steel grill to prevent theft as the operator cannot see around the side.  Third, this newsstand is also a public telephone facility.
  8. Bogotá, Colombia (photo credit: Deborah Levy)  This newsstand carries the principal newspapers in the city --- El Tiempo, El Espectador, La Prensa and so on.  But El Tiempo gets a sign in large letters right on top of the stand and is therefore much more visible. 
  9. San Juan, Puerto Rico (photo credit: Deborah Levy)  This newsstand carries an astonishing array of publications from all over the world --- New York Daily News, New York Times, The Miami Herald, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Corriere della Sera, La Gazetta dello Sport, La Repubblica, Life, National Enquirer, Sun, Globe, Caribbean Business, ...  One would have to wonder if these publications are displayed for reason of vanity rather than actual sale.
  10. Mexico City, Mexico (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This newsstand has all the front pages of the tabloids (Ovaciones, Mediodía, etc) laid out in full, with gory photos and headlines screaming "Sangriento ..."  One problem with this type of approach is that there better be something else beyond that front page; very often, people will just stop, stand, read the front page and walk on.
  11. Panama City, Panama (photo credit: Nitzia Thomas) The magazines on this stand appears to be mostly English-language, such as Golf and Tennis, presumably targeting the Americans living and working in the Canal Zone.  This particular arrangement of the magazines means that people can only see the first magazine cover, and will have to reach and pull out the others.
  12. Mexico City, Mexico (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  This is the 'skin' section, with the magazine covers shielded by white paper ("sólo adultos") and plastic wrap, showing only the titles such as Private, Teenage Sex, 'Peter' Power, Club, Best Sex and others.  The Reader's Digest Selecciones clock on top is somewhat out of place in this environment.  Also, at the lowest row in view, Playboy appears between National Geographic and Unix System Administration.
  13. Bogotá, Colombia (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  Strictly speaking, this is a small food/drink stand, marked by a sign advertising Postobon, but it happens to be carrying a couple of tabloids.  This is not the type of place to accumulate large circulation numbers.
  14. Montevideo, Uruguay (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)  At this newsstand, all the magazines have been placed behind a large see-through plastic sheet, to protect against the elements as well as handling by browsers.
  15. Santiago, Chile (photo credit: Roland Soong)  On this newsstand, all the magazines are placed behind plastic sheets, to protect most against inclement weather as well as unwanted eyes and hands.  The same newsstand from the front.  Note that the plastic sheets were actually sponsored by the El Mercurio newspaper group.

In looking at these photos, it is clear to us that newspaper and magazine sales can be affected by many factors at newsstands.  It is not just the number of distribution outlets that matters, but also the shelf space and presentation.  Unfortunately, most of the time, these things are beyond the control of the publisher.  

(posted by Roland Soong on 10/14/99)


(Return to Zona Latina's Home Page)