Downsizing can be a good thing

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Do Not Mail is going too far
Do Not Mail is going too far

I went magazine shopping the other day, and what did I see? A lot of magazines have scaled down their sizes in a major way.

I see that Interview and Surface magazines are still at their large format, but I was surprised to see that both Yoga Journal and Rolling Stone have scaled down to save money. Michael Sheehy, circulation director at Rolling Stone magazine, told me, “We didn't save any money, because we churned the savings back into more pages and better paper stock. Fewer binderies could accommodate that large format and also fewer and fewer newsstand displays could accommodate our old size.”

Now that is something to consider. With new magazines constantly hitting the market, even in these down times, that means less and less space available for display, and for those large format magazines, size does matter.

 Sheehy also said, "Early results favor the new size and that although it has a smaller trim size, it has more pages, so it's really not smaller.” When I look at the local magazine rack, I still see large format magazines, interspersed with small, booklet-sized publications like Foreign Affairs used to offer. It's a growing trend to cut back on the trim size, utilize better paper stocks and recycled sheets as well as try to increase the amount of both ad pages and articles. Additional interesting covers seem on the rise as well as. I see this as a good thing.

What I also see is an interesting trend among the big magazine printers, such as Quad/Graphics and those like them. They are cutting back staff, closing plants and, more and more, looking at transitioning to smaller-format publications, just to stay in the magazine business. The catalog mailers are also getting into the size does matter business.

I recently received my Lands' End catalog, and what a surprise to find an almost digest-sized catalogue with 164 pages, still great four-color and even an insert card or two. With magazines looking at more ways of saving money on printing, postage and mailing costs, I think more will be focusing on these smaller formats. This enables the magazine rack to be less daunting to an advertiser as well as get more pages for a magazine and still be relevant to the audience.

James Sullivan is the project director of Optic Nerve Direct Marketing, a direct marketing and PR consultancy. Reach him at  


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