A Launch for the Global Community
New York City-based Forbes launches a new international edition
and overcomes some production challenges along the way.
Forbes INC. had an advantage when it decided to launch an international edition, Forbes Global Business & Finance: name rec-ognition. The domestic edition's readership demographics, after all, included tens of thousands of faithful followers in countries other than the United States. Surely it made sense to create a publication that was targeted to that global audience.
"The corporate thinking," ex-plains Peter Pallans, Forbes' director of manufacturing and production, "was that if Forbes really wanted to be a global magazine, we were going to have to create an edition specifically for the (international) community. … If we were going to be a global force and have a global influence, we needed a publication that looked at marketing strategies with an (international) slant."
The premiere issue of Forbes Global Business & Finance was launched on April 6, 1998. With a print run of 89,000, the magazine is produced every two weeks—a task that challenges even the most efficient production departments. Out of the 89,000 printed, the majority of the magazines are destined for the hands of globally scattered subscribers; the balance goes to newsstands in Europe, Asia, South Africa, Latin America and Australia.
"We built the publication's circulation through direct-mail promotions," explains Ed Conrad, manager of distribution/postal affairs. "The returns on our direct-mail campaigns have been phenomenal. Overall, (the magazine) has been very well-received."
From the beginning, Forbes Global Business & Finance was slated to be a beta project for the publishing house. Pallans explains: "We decided we could use the global edition really as an experiment for things that we want to do with Forbes in the future."
Therefore, the decision was made to give computer-to-plate (CTP) a try. Working with World Color Digital Services in New York City, and World Color Press, Effingham, IL, Forbes' production department has benefited from a virtually seamless PDF-based workflow.
"Obviously, we create our edit pages here and with World Color Digital Services right here in our building, we're literally sending PDF files from the third floor down to the basement," Pallans explains.
Electronic file transfers to prepress are facilitated by a T1 line and a WAM!NET connection. Along with the PDF files, the prepress vendor receives a hard proof for on-site comparison to the transmitted file.
"They do check everything on the screen to make sure everything is correct before they transmit to Effingham," explains Production Manager Alan Biederman. "It takes a little bit longer to do that but, so far, everything has gone through just fine."
Biederman appreciates the permanence and stability of the PDF file format. He feels that it provides him with a secure method for the CTP workflow, noting that: "Forbes has been using (PDF) for a couple of years already. We've had no problems with it."
Accepting the challenge
The most difficult challenge from a production perspective, according to both Pallans and Biederman, was to change the mindset of the Forbes staff.
"We consider ourselves to be newsworthy, and we have to get the publication overseas and on the newsstands very fast in order to be competitive. We have very tight closings now, so we had to work to change the editors' philosophy—pages cannot be late," Pallans states flatly.
"From management, the edict has come: There will be no excuses for being late. And the editors have followed this, as have the art directors and everyone else."
Constant communication has helped achieve scheduling goals, Biederman points out. Meetings between the production and editorial departments are on-going throughout the production cycle, which allows everyone involved to stay up-to-date on closings and the status of finalized pages.
Those pesky ads
The next monumental challenge Forbes faced was how to handle overseas advertisers. According to Pallans, Forbes Global Business & Finance receives no digital ads. Zero. Nada. None. Obviously, this adds another dimension to the creation of a CTP edition.
The majority of ads come in from companies located outside of the United States, which perhaps explains why digital advertisements are non-existent.
"We are requesting digital ads, but it's difficult to ask the (international ad community) for them. They are used to doing things one way," Pallans reveals. "Since we're the new kid on the block, we can't be too forceful in what we require. I think that after we're established over there—that is, after the balance of this year—we can put a little more pressure on advertisers. Right now, we have to accept what they're giving us, which happens to be conventional film."
Ad film is copydot scanned upon receipt. Forbes does not allow any electronic versioning of ads destined for different countries. Continents, however, may be split up, says Pallans.
"We do have a Europe/Asia/Latin American split," he explains. "So an advertiser must buy the full run of the book and split those three locations. While we have the ability to do a country-by-country split, we've elected not to, because the print run is so short. We'd never get the book off the press if we did."
As Forbes' distribution manager, Conrad has a few challenges of his own—specifically, getting magazines overseas in a very limited amount of time.
Distribution vendor Mail Inter-national, based in the UK (with domestic headquarters in Sterling, VA), works with Conrad to make certain that distribution deadlines are also met.
From World Color's Effingham plant, magazines are trucked to Mail International's hub in Sterling. Books are then divided into two categories: those routed to Latin America and issues for all other international destinations.
The Latin American books are processed for mailing in Sterling. Newsstand copies are shipped from New York City and Washington, DC. The balance of the magazines are shipped to Mail International's UK operation, where they are polywrapped and deposited into the Royal Mail postal system. By coding these as priority mail, Forbes is averaging a three- to five-day delivery cycle in Europe. Asian issues typically take a day or two longer to reach their destinations, according to Conrad.
Determining how distribution would be handled was not made by haphazard guesswork, Pallans claims. Forbes wanted to ensure that the distribution channels were fail-safe. And to do that, Biederman and Conrad did a little investigative work on their own.
Pallans recalls: "When we did the very first issue, Alan and Eddy literally got in a car and followed the truck from Effingham to Virginia. Eddy got on the same plane with the magazines, flew to England with them and went through customs with them." Fortunately, both the magazines and Conrad cleared customs without a hitch.
"I actually approached distribution a little differently than most people," Conrad recalls. "A lot of our competitors use what is called a 'publication rate,' which is extremely cheap. And that gets you a seven- to 14-day delivery. If we wanted to be competitive … we needed to shrink that timeline. So, for me, negotiating an airmail rate down to almost a publication rate was my biggest challenge. And I succeeded.
"I can't tell you how much we pay, because I was asked not to," Conrad adds with a coy chuckle. "But that was my biggest challenge—making sure that we stayed within our budget and still made our deadlines."
"Forbes adopted the philosophy that distribution was going to be one of our main concerns," Pallans adds. "That's what everything is based on. We needed to find a way to get the magazine on the newsstands and into the subscribers' hands when we thought it should be there.
"We could spend less and get less, but if a book mails six hours late here in this country, it doesn't mean anything," Pallans suggests. "Overseas, however, we felt it was very important to get it there fast. That was one of the guiding forces behind how we've handled the entire operation."
-Gretchen A. Kirby