What Xerox Acquisition of R.R. Donnelley Could Mean for Magazines
Well, this is big news and could have a big impact on the publishing industry. I expect several mergers and/or additional buyouts after this pending Xerox-R.R. Donnelley deal goes through. As I see it, when the dust settles, it will be seen as an opportunity for the printing community to take down some more iron (as in shut down presses) and tighten the relationship between the number of magazines being printed and the amount of presses there are to print them on.
My take on this may not be universally beloved, but I suggest that this concentration of available equipment will help make the printing industry more profitable, and that means a healthier foundation for all members of the magazine brotherhood. Could the result be a more expensive cost structure? Yes, it could.
Here is the heresy of my forecast. I have said for a decade or more that printed magazines are moving from a commodity to a luxury item. I see that as a good thing. The logic is that everything should/will cost more. More expensive printing, more expensive paper, and a more expensive retail cost for the magazine itself. The public has proven that if the product is worthy, they are willing to pay for it.
I would like to think that our artists and writers would gain more revenue too as this luxury transformation takes place, but history has proven to me that publishers are usually unwilling to pay a perceived fair wage if they don't have to. And like too many presses there are too many writers and artists, in other words no shortage of available talent. Now before you get in an uproar, what I just stated is a generalization. If you pay your staff well, then great, and I sit corrected. But I am in contact with enough of the creatives in our industry to feel their pain.
But let's get back to the merger, and I'll drop one last heretical comment. If print ain't dead, then those that make it have to be able to have a sustainable business. That means making a fair profit so that print actually ain't dead. There will be no beloved print if the printers can't keep their plants open and running. My guess right now is that most plants run at an 80% capacity. I would prefer a tighter 98%. We get to that by taking down redundant older presses. Yes, I know publishers would like to get their magazines printed for free, let alone pay more than they are paying now. My advice for the health of the entire industry is to get over it.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.