AARP Manages Godzilla-Sized Print Runs with a Few Twists
Managing a magazine print run of 22 million isn't a job for the faint of heart. Toss in a bunch of versions tailored to specific geographic markets, demographic segments and ink-jet messages, and things can get downright daunting.
The print-production staff at AARP must have thick skin. They produce AARP The Magazine, and the above scenario is part of their routine. "[Having three versions of AARP The Magazine] means closing three different magazines … often with different advertising and edit pages …, three sets of instructions to the printer, and three press and bindery runs," says John Condit, general manager of AARP Publications.
Condit's production director, Traci Lucien, who Condit says "really does the heavy lifting," also oversees production of three other publications published by the 46-year-old association: AARP Bulletin, a 32-page newsletter published 11 times a year, also with a print run of 22 million per issue; AARP Segunda Juventud ("second youth"), a quarterly newsletter mailed to approximately 600,000 bilingual Hispanic members; and NRTA: Live & Learn, mailed quarterly to some 250,000 of AARP's National Retired Teachers Association members. And, Condit's department produces an event guide for AARP's National Event.
All told, Condit's staff manages production for more than 377.4 million publications annually, with some of the world's largest distributions. And for that, they need a bit more than thick skin.
A MAGAZINE IS A MAGAZINE
Fortunately, Condit brings some experience with pretty large-circulation publications to the table. He came to AARP, a nonprofit organization serving members age 50 and older, in 1996 from Ladies' Home Journal, circulation 4.1 million. So he was no stranger to delayed closings due to last-minute advertising additions and changes. "From the aspect of production, we run like a regular magazine publisher," he says.
A challenge at AARP, though, is managing the multiple versions of AARP The Magazine. "In effect, our magazine is a bimonthly … broken into three [demographic] segments: ages 50 to 59, 60 to 69, and 70-plus," he explains. "We do have versioning of editorial [for each]. An advertiser can buy [any or all of the] … segments. We also offer regional space by the same [demographics]."