HOWTO: Get your magazines delivered on time
A week or so ago I wondered why bookstores were getting magazines before I, a subscriber, did.
So I called the the Paris Review’s circulation manager, the dedicated Caitlin Roper.
The end result? Contact magazines if you think you’re not getting your publication fast enough!
Roper described for me the process by which the Paris Review (and the Believer, for that matter) gets from printer to stores and subscribers.
The Review is printed in Winnipeg. From there, two batches go one of two places—to bookstores via distributors, and to subscribers via a U.S. Mail hub. Until [the most recent] issue 176, that mail hub was in North Dakota—a good location because it’s just over the border from Canada and because mail starting in the middle of the country crosses the fewest mail zones, so it’s cheaper. But the North Dakota hub turned out to be incredibly slow in getting our copies out. Copies addressed internationally took over a month to ship. For issue 176, though, I’ve switched to a U.S. Mail hub in New Jersey . . .
. . . which isn’t as cheap, but results in better fulfillment.
Roper and I talked also about how she wants to stagger deliveries. For a non-time-sensitive publication like the Paris Review (but unlike the Economist or the New Yorker), publishers can hold distributors’ batches to time them to arrive at the same time as subscribers’. It gives you the value you paid for as a subscriber—priviledged access to the publication.
This is what Roper is trying to do with her distributor, subscriber, and international clients. But for it to work, you have to provide feedback. Roper made it clear that, at least in her case, you wouldn’t be a nag if you told her that you experienced a delay. It’s how she weeds out bad distributors, balances costs, and better serves her readers. I’m sure tons of publications—from Wired to Vogue to Tin House—would value that kind of information.
The problem that remains, though, is whether nagging would help weekly publications make better decisions. Weeklies can’t stagger their deliveries, but they suffer from the same problems. For example, the April 3rd issue of the New Yorker was on the newstand at my office building last Tuesday—but I only received my copy today. I get letters from my friend in Niger faster than I get my New Yorker.
So for weeklies, what would you say is the best way to (selfishly) get your copy at the same time it shows on the newsstands?