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NO swimsuit issue for you…mags printed, not distributed

Magazines printed, not distributed

Magazines printed, not distributed

A piece of Americana, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, won’t be available at Safeway, Wal-Mart or K-mart when it’s published Monday. Ironically, SI and much of the rest of the magazine medium are caught in the middle of an old-fashioned American price war between magazine distributors and publishers.

Source Interlink Co. and Anderson News, the two companies responsible for distributing approximately 50 percent of the country’s magazines, have demanded a 7-cent per copy surcharge for each magazine they distribute.

Besides Sports Illustrated, other publications that may not be available in these leading chains include People, Time, the National Enquirer, Star, InTouch and Life & Style. Stores such as Barnes and Noble receive magazines through other distributors and are not affected.

Source and Anderson say they demanded the increase because they are bleeding financially. Magazine publishers Time Inc., Bauer Publications and American Media refused to accept the surcharge, arguing it would add hundreds of millions of dollars to their costs.

The magazine distributors have painted on their battle faces. Source Interlink Co. is owned by billionaire Ron Burkle, who is granting interviews where he openly curses about the matter. And Charles Anderson of Anderson News clearly doesn’t want to be in a business where his company isn’t making money.

This magazine distribution war is being waged on the heels of 18 magazines folding in January and early advertising orders for 2009 plummeting. Eliminating the distribution channel takes away the audience for everyone-–owners, journalists and PR.

Publishers and distributors may want to look to the entertainment industry as a warning. When Hollywood doesn’t sign contracts with the Screen Actors Guild, movies aren’t made, no one gets paid, and the fickle public goes elsewhere.

–Michael Blankenheim

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