How to Get Your Magazine on Newsstands (2023)

There are many benefits to selling your magazine on newsstands. One of them, however, is not profit—newsstand sales basically generate revenue equal to your production and distribution cost. However, newsstand sales can increase your circulation, which justifies your advertising rates and helps demonstrate to advertisers the strength of your brand.

In addition, newsstand sales should ultimately result in more subscriptions, larger distribution, more revenues and justification for increasing advertising rates. Consider newsstand sales as a lost leader.

Newsstand sales are no-brainer. If your publication is a consumer title targeted at the general public, getting on national and/or regional newsstands is a must. But where do you start?

The first step to getting your publication on newsstands

My first recommendation is to purchase a UPC (Universal Product Code). Commonly referred to as a barcode, the UPC’s used for magazines and other periodicals are a unique, in that the code includes the issue and frequency of you magazine.

You can rent a UPC, but with one UPC you will be able to generate barcodes for up to 100 publications. These UPCs are compatible with retail booksellers’ and newsstands’ POS scanning systems. It’s a bit of a hassle, but owning your own has always been my preference.

Software is available to generate your own bar code graphics, but I always found it easier to contact a barcode service. Simply give them your UPC and product info, and they will email you a postscript (.eps) graphic to use on your publication cover.

Finding a distributor for your magazine

There are three primary distribution channels to consider: national, regional and specialized distribution.

If your title is targeted at a national audience, you need to get on national newsstands. National bookseller chains, like Barnes & Noble, use larger distributors for the bulk of the products they sell. Companies like PDG Mags and DISTICOR Magazine Distribution Services, typically charge a one-time marketing fee to review your publication and shop it around to the buyers for the retail chains they represent.

Assuming it’s a professionally produced publication with good content, they will assign you an account rep, add the magazine to their catalog, and shop it around to their retail bookseller clients to get orders. After several weeks your account rep should be able to give you an idea of orders. Don’t expect too much. A few thousand orders for a new title is not bad.

The second distribution channel is regional distributors. Regional distributors like The News Group can get your magazine on newsstands at regional supermarket chains, smaller bookseller chains and independent book stores/newsstands.

With the decline of the former mega distributors like Ingram Periodicals, The News Group is also a great option for national distribution. But you may have to work with several representatives as their business model divides its offices into several regions across North America. Distributors like The News Group typically do not charge fees to market your magazine to their retail clients. Regional distributors require a bit more leg-work, but they are an important part of your newsstand strategy.

Specialized retailers like Walmart, are the third distribution channel. These large chains have in-house departments that handle magazine distribution directly with the publisher.

With all distributors, you will pay a fee that includes a sales commissions, shipping and handling, etc., with deductions for damaged or unsold items, National distributors will provide you with sales data from individual retail sellers. This can help you understand where you need to better promote and where you need to ask for additional orders to support the supply.

DIY or use a pro?

If all this seems like a lot of work, you can hire a consultant to set up and manage your distribution. Regardless, I recommend you learn all you can about distribution, so that you are capable of jumping in and assuming control if necessary.

Canyon Media can help. Contact us if you would like us to help you get your magazine on newsstands.

Magazine on Newsstands

7 thoughts on “How to Get Your Magazine on Newsstands (2023)”

  1. Hello,
    We would like to have our magazines on regional global newsstands. We are looking for exclusive distribution to niche boutique hotels, retailers, private jet companies and more. We would love to discuss how you would be able to help us get there.

    • Hi Trystanne,

      In the U.S., there are a couple distributors I would use to get on newsstands. Getting on newsstands in the rest of the world would require a bit of research to I.D. distributors and navigate the different processes/regulations for each country/region. Not difficult, just a lot of leg work. For niche hotels, jet companies and what not, the task would be to contact them all. These businesses will not be working with magazine distributors so, again, a lot of leg work to research and contact each individual businesses. Thanks for your comment and email me if you would like to discuss further.

  2. Hi Scott, great post! What % of sales on newsstand goes to the distributor? I realize it’s a breakeven proposition, but if you had to attribute the ideal % going to the distributor and the publisher, what’s the optimal breakout?

    • Hi Jill, One rule of thumb is that newsstand sales typically only cover the cost of production. So you should break even on newsstand sales, but you do get verifiable circulation which supports ad sales, potential subscribers and brand building.

  3. Thanks for this great information. I have a motivational publication that identifies life’s battles. Its been doing well so far. The title has been reaching many and the articles continue to inspiring readers. We are digital and paperback in the Books A Million stores and our goal is to reach national. It’s a process and I know it takes time and patience and consistency. Thank you for all the details.


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