POSTAL PENNY-PINCHING: It hasn’t even been approved yet, but magazine publishers already are budgeting for a possible postal rate increase in 2006.

The proposed 5.4 percent bump for all mailings — equivalent to only two cents a stamp, but significant for an industry that ships billions of magazines each year — has at least one publishing company taking preemptive measures. Sources within Time Inc. said there the onus of paying a higher rate is expected to fall on the individual magazines, each of which will have to slash budgets to defray new shipping costs. One source added that higher postage also could put off any launches at Time Inc. until 2007. A Time Inc. spokesman said simply, “We don’t discuss strategy,” when asked about the reports.

Postage increases, of course, are a familiar hurdle in the magazine business. But Time Inc., publisher of, among other magazines, four weekly titles that ship close to 570 million subscription copies each year (Time, Sports Illustrated, People and Entertainment Weekly), is particularly sensitive to fluctuations.

Kent Brownridge, vice chairman of Wenner Media, publisher of Us Weekly, Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal, said, “It’s one of the top five expenditures for our company.” However, he added, “every year the rate is published, there is a lot of posturing, spin doctoring and boy crying wolf. And every year after all the smoke clears, it turns out it’s not that bad. Nobody here is wringing their hands.”

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Hearst said, “Our circulation practices and business strategies are confidential matters, but postal increases are nothing new and we are fully prepared to handle them.” And Conde Nast’s spokeswoman said, “We’ll deal with this as we have every other postage or fixed-cost increase.”

Conde Nast, like WWD, is part of Advance Publications Inc.

This story first appeared in the June 14, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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