When Joe Ransbotham, district manager for Time Inc.'s newsstand sales in the Carolinas (shown at The Pop Shoppe in Charlotte, N.C.), knows we're covering an event of importance to his area, he 1) smacks his lips and 2) spreads extra copies around. Last week's event was the North Carolina-Duke basketball game—Curry Kirkpatrick's story on it begins on page 46—and when the returns are in, chances are Ransbotham will have had another winning week. After all, when North Carolina State upset Houston in the NCAA tournament final two years ago, he put a whopping 95,000 copies of our April 11 issue, which covered that game, on newsstands in North Carolina. And he'd sold 54,163 copies of our April 5, 1982 issue that featured the Tar Heels' triumph in that year's NCAA tournament final. Both totals were miles above the state's weekly sales average of 2,804. (SI has 2.525 million subscribers and sells an average of 100,000 copies on the newsstand each week.)
"I like to roll the dice," says Ransbotham. "I like to take a chance." He heavily promoted the issue highlighting N.C. State's victory—delivering advance copies to local TV and radio stations and newspapers, arranging for magazine-rack displays and, with the appropriate hoopla, presenting the first copy off the presses to then North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt. As it turned out, he did too good a job. The 50,000 copies of the magazine delivered to newsstands the Thursday after the Monday night NCAA title game were gone by noon: Wolfpack fans were lined up in the rain. The issue went back on press in Atlanta for another 45,000 copies. And of the total consignment (32,440 copies) for Raleigh, site of State's campus, all but 67 were sold.
SI has had a variety of impressive local newsstand performances over the years, but none of our 22 district sales managers has a track record in merchandising local-interest stories to compare with Ransbotham's.
Ransbotham, 41, is a native of Atlanta, where he was a "long and lanky" (6'3", 160 pounds) basketball forward in high school before going to Georgia State to get a degree in marketing. After six years as a sales representative for Gillette, he joined Time Distribution Services, Inc. as a sales rep in 1974 and was promoted to district sales manager in '79. His first notable performance for SI was a North Carolina newsstand sale of 18,000 copies of our 1981 college basketball preview, which featured four Tar Heels and coach Dean Smith on the cover. He enhanced his reputation when Clemson won the national football title for 1981 and Tiger Perry Tuttle was on our Jan. 11, 1982 cover. South Carolinians, who at that time usually bought 830 SIs on the newsstand each week, went to the newsstands for 34,440 copies. "I didn't think I was a creative person," he says, "but looking at all we've done down here, I guess you could say I am."
We could, and we do.