19 MAY 1961, Page 13


SIR,—How does Mr. Austin classify 'smaller circula- tion magazines,' which, he says, have a knack of

'going out of business'? He seems to misunderstand the present set-up in the magazine industry. A periodi- cal appealing to the bookstall customer lives by the sales it achieves. A trade paper is ofteh boosted by tie-ups with organisations and is rarely seen on the news counters. In recent years few of these have gone to the wall.

It is the weekly magazine in gravure .selling less than a million that is in danger. Or should I say, was? Most in this category are dead and buried, 'great names among them. Weekly is the operative word in this context. True there may be at least fifty-one gravure magazines selling less than a million. Almost all are monthlies. Why? Because the production costs and schedule of a monthly with only twelve issues a year present a very different picture from that of a weekly with fifty-two issues. Advertising space is easier to sell. Staff costs and overheads arc lower; at one large publishing house, a multi-million-sale weekly carries an editorial and production staff of no tewer than 110. In the same building, a monthly, selling several hundred thousand, has a three-man staff.

What a publisher cannot combat is the cost of printing each copy. Of a 6d. cover price, the pub- lisher gets around 3d. This must cover all his costs and provide a profit of at least 44. It is doubtful whether he would have much change from 24d. per copy from a gravure run of less than a million. With- out a healthy advert 'take' he is in the red. '

The case for using web-fed off-set litho is that it would reduce the cost per copy of printing magazines with runs of between 250,000 and a million. This, in turn, would enable the publishers to reduce advertis- ing rates and solve several other incidental produc- tion problems. On the Continent and in America. it has already, been done with outstanding success. I would not deny that there are other off-set plants in England but how many arc producing magazines? Two orahree at the most. Although other companies have plans for future development, Hazel!, Watson & Viney are the only group to have a factory devoted to web-fed off-set litho.

The off-set litho processes which print Reader's Digest and Men Only are as different, says Mr. Aus- tin, as a Ford Model T and the latest Jaguar. How? The same machines in Maidenhead print both.

After considerable market research American pub- lishers arc convinced that there is a market here for general magazines. Look, Newsweek, Time and Life, and the.Canadian Star Weekly are all pouring thous- ands of pounds to gain sales on British bookstalls. Paris-Match is preparing to do the same next year. That is the challenge printers and publishers face.— You rs faithfully,

154 Putney Bridge Road. SW 15