"We know that our readers value getting The Economist and
reading it on the weekend," said Paul Rossi, managing director at
The Economist Group, which gets 55% to 60% of subscriber copies to
homes by Saturday . "There's a direct connection between renewing
customers and delivery. So it's important to us."
The Week gets about 75% to 80% of subscriber copies to homes by
Saturday , part of a "very definite strategy to reach people on the
weekend," said Steven Kotok, the magazine's president. But that
performance has been degrading lately anyway as the Postal Service
makes other changes to its system. "Even without losing the sixth
day, they're just seeing lots of problems," he said.
Not every weekly will be adversely affected. Some, like Sports
Illustrated and Newsweek, come out during the week. And the
celebrity weeklies Star and OK, which reach half their subscribers
by Saturday , have enough "excess time" in their distribution
schedules to absorb the loss of Saturday delivery without reaching
many subscribers later, according to Dave Leckey, exec VP for
consumer marketing at American Media, which owns those titles.
But many will have to react—or lose a step. Time magazine
changed its schedule four years ago expressly to become a weekend
read, and enough copies arrive on Saturdays that the Postal Service
proposal would mean many subscribers don't see copies until Monday.
"If the postal schedule changes, we will explore all options to
maintain pre-weekend delivery," a Time staffer said.
Other magazines aren't waiting to see what Congress lets the
Postal Service do. Bloomberg Businessweek has been developing an
alternate delivery system since last year, when it began using
newspaper carriers in Philadelphia.
Today newspaper carriers deliver some 200,000 of the magazine's
roughly 900,000 subscriptions in markets including San Francisco,
Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, New York City,
all of New Jersey and most of Connecticut.
"We're a newsweekly," said Bernie Schraml, department head of
manufacturing and distribution at Bloomberg Businessweek. "The news
is fresh and we want to get it to subscribers as soon as we can. So
that presents a concern and that 's why we're delivering 200,000 by
alternate delivery now."
"Our goal is to go up another 100,000 in 2012," Mr. Schraml
added."But if Saturday delivery is eliminated, the question I'll
receive is , How fast and how much of the country can we
The remedies, however, have their own drawbacks. Delivery by
newspaper carriers is easier in densely populated cities than rural
areas. And some readers don't want their magazines that way. "It
gets treated like a newspaper, thrown on the lawn because you don't
have access to the mailbox," said Mr. Rossi, who tested newspaper
delivery of The Economist for 25,000 customers in Virginia for two
months last year."You're subject to sprinkler systems and urinating
dogs. You're really down to the skill and efficiency of the
individual delivery person."
Nobody likes the most obvious option: making editorial deadlines
earlier. "We've done some modeling," Mr. Rossi said. "We would
probably have to have an editorial close of Tuesday in the U.K.
You'd be sitting there trying to guess what would be the best cover
for Saturday , which is an age."
Then there's the possibility of digital delivery to platforms
like the iPad. That will probably work for a growing number of
readers, but certainly not all of them. And many people still
prefer reading print editions.
The MPA, the magazine industry association, has not taken a
formal position on reducing mail delivery to five days, and agrees
that the Postal Service needs to cut costs, but wants Congress to
adopt a package of postal reforms that will ensure the service's
long-term viability. "We believe our members will accept five-day
delivery if it is part of a comprehensive package of cost-saving
measures, and if publishers are given an adequate period of
time—at least six months—to prepare and make the
necessary adjustments," said Rita Cohen, senior VP for legislative
and regulatory policy at the MPA, in an email. "In addition, for
this change to be workable for publishers, the Postal Service must
fix its current service-performance problems."
Weeklies may accept five-day delivery, but they won't be happy
about it. "We're assuming Saturday is going away," said The Week's
Mr. Kotok. "We're in the process of figuring out which bad option
we want to pursue."