Thursday, February 12, 2009

Magazine Distribution Chaos Continues

The lawsuit by magazine distributor Source Interlink against competing distributors and major publishers has passed its first hurdle. A judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the defendants from withholding their magazines from Source's pipeline, according to Folio:. Source claims the defendants were trying to force it to sell itself at bargain prices to competitors; the whole brouhaha follows a failed attempt by Source and other distributors to raise the fees they receive for distributing the magazines.
Now, whether there was actual collusion going on or whether Source is just playing hardball with the industry, I don't know. That will, with luck, be decided fairly by the courts. But I think this is pointing up the reality that the economic and technological changes we've gone through are less a challenge to publishers (which it is, just relatively speaking here) than to distributors.
I've written before that technology is already doing an end-run around print distribution and its costly model. Print publications can still survive; but they'll be getting their wares to the subscriber or the newsstand seller electronically rather than through delivery trucks and over-printing. (Similar things are happening to movie theaters receiving films to play.)
If Source Interlink wins, its victory might be a useless one in the end.

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