No more Saturday delivery: The magazine industry’s future

The U.S. Postal Service announced earlier this month that it will cease to deliver first-class mail on Saturdays, a move that will go into effect in August. This cutback will impact all types of businesses nationwide, including publications in the magazine industry. But it’s no surprise to publishers who have had this on their radar for some time.

In terms of which magazines it impacts, frequency is everything. Monthly and quarterly magazines certainly have more wiggle room. For instance, Melanie Mazzone, account manager at the German-language quarterly publication, Florida Sun Magazine, said that the end to Saturday delivery has no negative impact on the magazine or distribution.

Meanwhile, weeklies are in a gray area. Arts and entertainment guide Time Out New York’s readers receive their weekly magazine by Saturday at the very latest, “with a vast majority receiving their issues between Wednesday and Friday,” said Andrew Jimenez, the magazine’s circulation marketing manager. As a result of the Postal Service’s new schedule, Jimenez noted the publication will be coordinating with their distributor and the USPS to ensure all subscribers receive issues before Saturday.

Weekly magazines that schedule delivery for Saturday are faced with no perfect alternatives. If publishers print the magazine on Friday, they sacrifice a whole day of editorial content. But waiting until Monday when a new week has begun could result in the loss of reader interest and advertisers may opt to submit ads elsewhere. Dailies that deliver on Saturdays would face the same issues. Magazine publishers could use both the Postal Service and private delivery systems depending on the day, but for some, the prospect is an annoyance.

In anticipation of the decision by the U.S. Postal Service, Time magazine already offers its editions in digital and tablet form, reported the Poynter Institute. Other publications may consider offering their subscribers similar options, if they haven’t already.

We already saw Newsweek end its print edition last year and Harper’s Bazaar reduce its frequency in 2011. Perhaps the USPS decision is yet one more incentive for magazines to transition online.

Bryan Martin