For Everything There Is A Season

Posted On: 9/1/2018

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There have been a lot of changes in both the vending and publishing worlds, most of them resulting from the interaction of technology, society and the marketplace. The two industries have several things in common.

For one thing, vending machines and magazines try to attract customers by being accessible. Mainstream vending always has practiced what has been called “intercept marketing,” offering a desirable product to people participating in activities – working, studying, washing their cars – unrelated to refreshment. If they’re ready for a drink or a snack and they encounter a vending machine, they’re likely to use it.

Thus, an important thread in vending history has been steady improvement in payment systems, so customers can make their purchases with whatever they have in their pockets. These systems have evolved from basic single-price, single-coin mechanisms through bill validators to cards and mobile options, and present developments are keeping up with new payment concepts.

Similarly, publishers have sought to attract and retain readers by offering the media that readers want and use. Today, this means online digital editions in addition to print. I did say addition.

One enduring attraction for operators of cashless payment in vending is the hope of, at last, eliminating cash in their machines and so solving many problems with accountability, vandalism, theft and logistics. A recent development here is a vending machine that replaces not only the payment system but the selection mechanism with Vagagond Vending’s vīv platform. The entire transaction, from reviewing the products through selecting one to paying for it is done on the customer’s smartphone. This gives operators a futuristic new talking-point for pursuing new business, and is ideal for certain locations. In general, though, people like to know that the vending machines they patronize can take cash.

Governments also see advantages in cashless transactions with transparent audit trails, and some have been harassing cash businesses like ATM and bulk vending operations. Counteraction by our associations seems to be resolving this. Cash isn’t going away any time soon. It’s versatile, convenient, and your pocket is a simple budgeting tool.

Not unlike “cash” and “cashless” (read more in this issue), print and digital publishing co-exist because each has its strengths. Trade (and other) publications benefit greatly from the speed with which “breaking” news can be disseminated online to subscribers. That speed also is valuable to advertisers for calling attention to limited-time promotional offers and helping to publicize new products.

Print, however, is better for “long form” editorial material; it is inherently easier and more comfortable to read, and it’s not dependent on your browser for legibility. And it continues to provide durable advantages to advertisers as a medium for conveying information.

Because print advertising is persistent, it remains unrivaled in its ability to build brand recognition and familiarize readers with a product. The question “which is better: print or on-screen?” is like the question “which is better, a hammer or a wrench?” In both cases, the answer will depend on what you’re trying to do.

The grand plan for VENDING TIMES since 2000, when we launched our first Ahead of the Times email newsletter (from my personal Out-look database!), has been to grow readership across digital media while accommodating different user behaviors on different platforms for different subject matter.

The latest step we’ve taken in this direction is to take fullest advantage of digital publishing’s speed and immediacy by reducing our reliance on print for short news, especially time-critical stories. This allows us to devote more space to features. At present, the industry is simultaneously recovering from the economic dislocation of the Great Recession a decade ago and striving to consolidate its position in today’s wider, more diverse and fast-changing market. Thus, we’ve been able to expand our reach while moving from 12 to six print issues a year. This is an accommodation to the times, and if the industry grows and prospers the way we expect it to, we’re ready to change back.

Our subject matter is organically developed by our editors and contributors and respected as original content and newsworthy. Our brand’s digital strategy does not rely on one social media channel to reach its audience for massive traffic spikes. It’s sensible to hitch a ride with the social media giants, but it won’t build engagement with you. A company website needs its own brand identity.

VENDING TIMES developed a unique product almost six decades ago. We continue to build on that foundation for a reader-supported model. The publications that will thrive in this era are the ones who create strong content.