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Posted By joe rusz on 12/28/2008 9:22 PM
Many of you will just skip this post, but here goes anyway.

Speaking as someone who spent 40 years in the magazine business, the cover dates of monthly and bi-monthly magazines are advanced because it takes roughly a month or more to get a nationally circulated, newstand magazine written, proofed, laid out, and printed. This means that an issue put together in December, and labeled "December," would appear to be one month old by the time it reached the newstand in January. Therefore, everyone sets an advance date on the cover, which really gets confusing when you are working on 'em. I've never worked on one, but I suspect bi-monthlies such as GR, use the second month (i.e. February) rather than the first (January) to give ther magazine some additional shelf life. I guess the way to get around all of this is to just label each issue, "Number 1, number 2, " etc, but if you were just a casual reader who happened to pick up, say GR, for the first time, how would you know when it came out?

Kapish?! :)" src="http://www.mylargescale.com/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/smile.gif" align="absMiddle" border="0" />

Well, not really....

If you are working on an issue that will hit the newstands in January, regardless of what month it is when you are working on it, why can you not just label it for "January", the month it hits the news stands. I can understand a subscriber receiving the issue a week or two earlier as a courtesy or perk for being one who supports the magazine as a subscriber, but I get some magazines in early November that are labeled for February! It appears that the publisher is assuming that the distribution will take a whole month more than it really does, AND they have decided to extend that "early issue courtesy" to the non-subscriber and then furthermore must meet the subscribers expectation of getting the magazine a month before the early issue will hit the news stands.

You can decide on the "theme" of the January issue in June, let writer contracts in July, receive submissions in August, layout in September, proof in October, print in November, ship/mail in December so the subscriber gets the magazine in mid to late December and the news stands put it out on January 1st. and the cover is labeled: "January", because you knew in June that is when the issue was to be on the news stands. If your distribution network is faster or slower than that, you can shift the critical dates as necessary to get the magazine to the news stands at the end of the month before the issue is to be made available and it can still have the correctt month name on the cover.

After all, newspapers don't label today's news stand issue with tomorrow's date and the home delivery issue does not have the day after tomorrow's date. If newspapers can do it, why can't magazines?

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Posted By joe rusz on 12/29/2008 9:19 PM

Dang it, now you're making me work harder than I wanted. OK, the process I explained relates to Road & Track, a car magazine where I worked for 30 years before semi-retiring. Although there are some evergreen items (stories that are not time sensitive) most of what we report on are new cars, products, and racing news. You can't plan an issue when the car hasn't been released yet. Nor can you say, in February, how so-and-so won the Indy 500, which was to take place three months later. We try to review new models as soon as we get our hands on them, but the process of putting the whole package together--with a relatively small staff--takes time.

One other factor which I didn't mention: most major magazines such as Road & Track and probably GR, are printed at a plant that's generally not near the homes of subscribers (unless you happen to live there). For example, R&T is printed Tennesse and the magazine is distributed from there to the rest of the country. This explains why some folks get their copy before others.

Newpapers are essentially printed right in their own back yard. The Long Beach Press Telegram, where my wife was managing editor, was once printed right below the newsroom, but since they were bought out by Media News a few years ago, all of the printing for the P/T and Media News other LA area papers is done in Valencia (where Magic Mountain is located). Presses roll probably around midnight, and the papers are then trucked to Long Beach where the carriers deliver them to your door. The process is pretty direct and immediate: news happens, story gets written (ASAP) typeset (kinda), printed and delivered. Distance from printing plant to the average subscriber's home is up to 60 miles.

Weekly news magazines like Time and Newsweek with huge a circulation base and deep pockets, print issues in several major cities (LA, New York, etc), so getting the publication into the readers' hands quickly is not a huge problem. Unfortunately, R&T and GR don't have those luxuries.

As for the date that's on the cover, I guess you could put anything on there. But when I guy wandering through O'Hare or Borders is looking for magazines, he/she wants to know that he is buying the latest issue.

Verstehen sie?

jIyajbe' (-- No I don't understand.)

Oh boy! I never been able to get someone to work harder than they wanted... I'm so proud.... uh-oh I'd better be careful, I might fall down ("Pride goeth before a fall", ya know!)

Anyway, I said that the situation may require one to shift critical dates. :) I could add that they should also know their process and how long it takes, whether it is hours, days, weeks or months and make allowances for it in knowning when the magazine is being delivered, and label it accordingly.

It is my experience that magazine issues delivered before, or in the early days of, one month tend to be labeled for the month yet 2 or 3 months into the future and that strikes me as being a bit silly AND a reflection on the intellegence of the publisher or the publsher's idea of MY intellegence. I would not trust a newspaper with the day after tomorrow's date on it... or I'd be looking mighty hard at the lottery numbers and stock quotes! (What was that TV show about the fellow that got "tomorrow's newspaper today" and went around changing events?)

As it is, if I am wandering though O'Hare or past a newstand someplace in January, I have no idea what issue is the "latest", it might be February, or maybe March, or even April... If I am seeking the "latest" news that the magazine covers I have to seach the rack for all issues and pick the newest date, but that is no guarantee that it is the "latest"... maybe that issue is sold out and the one I find is "last months" (even though it is labeled for "next month").

If I wish to refer to an old magazine to find something I have read, I have to say, "Let's see, I was reading it in January so it must have been in, hmmmm... the March or April issue."

To compound the questions of journalistic integrity that the confusing issue dates causes, I sometimes get notifications that my subscription will end with the March issue delivered in January. Doesn't that sound "silly" to you? It makes me question whether I am getting all the issues I paid for. It is bad enough to get renewal notices 9 or 10 months in advance... on a one year subscription!... but, I have gotten a renewal notice on a new subscription to a quarterly magazine BEFORE I ever got the first issue!... "Your subscription will end with the Winter issue to be delivered in July or August." What do the publishers think I do, leave the magazine in the plain brown wrapper until the Winter Solstice?

I'm sorry, if a newspaper can deliver today's paper with today's date then a magazine should be able to deliver this month's issue with this month's date on it... and just think, that all the confusion (you mentioned in your first post) with what issue you are working on would be reduced by, well, one or two months! :)

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Posted By Allan W. Miller on 12/31/2008 12:57 PM
Les wrote:

"I'm sorry, if a newspaper can deliver today's paper with today's date then a magazine should be able to deliver this month's issue with this month's date on it... and just think, that all the confusion (you mentioned in your first post) with what issue you are working on would be reduced by, well, one or two months! :)"

How very wrong you are, Les (and some other here)! An apples-and-oranges comparison, and I can say that as a former editor with a major U.S. newspaper and as the current editor-in-chief of a popular bi-monthly model railroading magazine.

But I'm not sure why the cover date is such a big concern to some. The content of the publication is what should be important, not the date printed on the cover. If you subscribe to a publication and are not missing any issues, you haven't been deprived of anything at all.

Yeah, that is a quote from me... Semper Vaporo is my on-line persona, Charles T. McCullough is on me Driver's License; close friends, family and some presumptive individuals call me Charlie, some call me C.T., some call me Semper, some call me Semp, and at least one beloved individual calls me Mud to my face and less flattering things behind my back
! A few individuals with a sense of propriety have called me Mr. McCullough. Others have called me other things, including Stupid, Dummy and Crabby, as well as Pedantic and Idiotic, and , but none of that has any bearing on this discussion, it was the forum software that makes the quoting function difficult for some folk and creates confusion and delay (and that upsets Sir Topumhat).

Besides, nobody ever calls me for dinner using any name.

Yes, you might call my analogy an "apples-and-oranges" comparison, but as far as the ability to put a date on a publication it is just a "fruit" comparison, apples and oranges are just fruit in this instance and likewise writing a date on the cover of a publication should not be so difficult for the guy whut decides the date to put there.

I already expressed what my concern is as to why it is of concern to me... in re: it is hard enough to remember where I read something and when I read it, but to decrypt which issue it was in would be lots easier if I could be assured it was the same as the month I received and read the magazine... and... when I go to the newsstand to get the "latest" issue and there are multiple months on the newsstand I can know that the one labeled for the month that is showing on my MLS calender is the "latest" issue. But with the situation as it is, I cannot tell what issue is in question because the date of publication has no relation to when the "issue" was "issued", other than some arbitrary advance in the printed date.

Now to give an example of the date issue... even though I sometimes fit the latter set of names I listed above (the ones that begin with the letters "S", "D", "P" and "I" as well as "Crabby") I am going to make the gross assumption that some of you that are following along this silly discussion (either gleefully or glumly) are presently engrossed in preparations for your New Year's celebration so I am going to apply a date here for when it is intended to be read... namely,

December 31, 2008

There are those that may have "subscribed to" this thread and will receive an e-mail notification of my adding this to the thread and as subscribers they will get to read it in advance to those that only log-on once per day and don't get to see it until the day after I have listed (or maybe later). I did not put a date a few months into the future because that would be a gross exaggeration as to when I actually wrote it and thus present serious confusion to my intended readership. There may also be some folk that will stumble across this thread some time in the future, say next month, and they will see that I wrote it in the past (to them) and will not be confused that it is still an ongoing argument if I were to have put next month's date there... uh, well, I hope it ain't ongoing at that time!

I am still of a mind that publishers that put ridiculously advanced dates on their publications are "silly" and deluded that what they are doing adds more value to their publication than putting a more realistic date would do.

There has been one argument presented in this thread for why the date is set into the future and that is when it is used like a "Sell by" date by the vendor. This makes SOME sense, but just like food that has a "Sell by" date, I'd rather know when the food was packaged so I can decide when I am willing to chance eating it, rather than rely on the packager's idea of when the food is beyond the safe consumption date, because the packager has a motive to sell the item regardless of whether it is spoiled or not and due to that motive I am not sure I trust the packager!

As to the "I got mine" bragging rights; for sure, some of that is just bragging rights, but as far as "who the H*** cares?"... well...? The braggart does, that's who!

But then, the early bird gets the worm, ya know... and getting the magazine "late" can mean missing out on things of a time sensitive nature. I hate getting adverts on the 10th that specify the sale ends on the 9th!

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