Dealing With the Loss of Saturday Delivery
The only good thing about the loss of Saturday delivery for periodicals publishers is that the response is clear, if painful. There's only so much a print concern can do to get around the realities of the manufacturing and shipping process, but magazines have been thinking for some time about how best to tweak production and distribution schedules to minimize the impact of such a move, which has been batted around for years.
A typical situation is that faced by The Week. The magazine's president, Steven Kotok, told Poynter's Andrew Beaujon that the magazine currently closes Wednesday to ensure 90 percent of subscribers receive the magazine by Saturday. Loss of weekend delivery leaves two "not-great" options, he said: close earlier and miss some news, or accept Monday delivery, which changes the reader experience. With an audience used to a lean-back weekly news roundup, the change is understandably unsettling.
Bloomberg Businessweek has been trying to speed up delivery times, the magazine's manufacturing head, Bernie Schraml, told the Wall Street Journal, claiming only a quarter of subscribers will see delivery pushed to Monday.
How is this achieved? The best strategy is some combination of moving up ad/editorial closing and tightening production to ensure a Thursday/Friday delivery date, according to Ben Madril, National Director of Mailing Sales and USPS Liaison at Trend Offset Printing.
Trend is offering print schedule adjustments, delivery re-prioritization or alternative/private delivery as options to its publishing customers, which, in combination with printing closer to final destinations, can speed the process.
"For the heavily-populated cities near our facilities, this has been a significant advantage for our customers in meeting on-time deliveries," Madril says.
Back in 2010, Publishing Executive reported on a move by magazine publishers to alternative distribution services, such as The Economist's experimenting with hand delivery in the suburbs of Washington D.C. Magazines read primarily by affluent, urban populations are best positioned to take advantage of such services.
This is unlikely to help national magazine distributors such as Meredith, Conde Nast or Hearst. On the other hand, loss of Saturday delivery affects weeklies the most, and these publishers' business models are based on monthly delivery, leaving much more leeway for adjusting deadlines and delivery dates. This, along with a forward-looking focus on digital products, may explain why the USPS's announcement has met with a somewhat muted response from an industry with, arguably, bigger things to worry about.