Distribution faces a 'perfect storm'

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Robert Brai, production director at Secaucus, N.J.-based Northstar Travel Media, calls the current state of distribution "almost a perfect storm," with rising paper costs, the oil market's instability causing surcharges, the coming postal rate case and new laws that limit the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel.

MB: What are some of the things your publishers are looking at going forward?

Brai: Paper stock, trim size, circulation. We're looking at perhaps making some products or parts of circulation files into digital-delivery products.

MB: Do you think the current problems in distribution will bring about more digital delivery industrywide?

Brai: It's not the silver bullet that will cure all ills, but it will be part of the solution. It has to make business sense for the specific publication. Not only should it save you money but it should also drive additional revenue, whether it be by advertising, preferred placement or preferred searching capabilities. We just started a test of a product that we're getting good feedback on from sales. One client wants to do interactive ads.

MB: How has the truck-driver rule hurt you?

Brai: In certain cases we've had to pay extra for tandem drivers because we needed to hit certain dates and they can't drive overnight anymore. This happened with a product we're printing in Peru that we're ocean shipping. Ocean freight costs have gone up about 40% in the last year. But it's still cheaper to put this stuff on a boat rather than truck it across the country. We did it a year ago and it's saved us about $1 million.

-Mark J. Miller

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