Marketing Pressures on Magazine Printers

by Graham Leech

Sun Printers was chiefly a printer of magazines, and to understand what this means we must look at some particular characteristics of the magazine printing industry. They affected all departments at Sun, and indeed they affect all magazine printers anywhere in the free-market world.

First, a weekly magazine has a very short shelf-life. The major sales are on the ‘on-sale’ date and taper off over the next few days. Many other manufactured goods can wait around for months or years, in freezers, in storage on the shelf, or even in the home, until they are sold or used. Not magazines.

Second, the on-sale date is critical. When you buy a car, you may be willing to wait until you can get the model in the colour you want (rather than rushing off to get another one instead). But if a magazine is a day late, many of its regular readers will buy a rival publication (this is obviously true of newspapers, too).

Third, the editorial content of the magazine must cover the latest possible news items, and must never be seen to be stale or ‘old hat.’

Fourth, the magazine industry relies on advertising, which has a regular seasonal cycle. In the slack season a magazine may have half the number of pages that it has during the peak season, so there are difficult management decisions to be made about levels of employment and investment.

These four factors combine to make magazine printing a very competitive and fast-moving, quality-conscious industry, which puts enormous pressure on companies to adopt the latest technologies with their promise of increased quality or higher output, for an economic benefit.