Dead Tree Publishing’s Bad-For-the-Environment Math

Many industries have built-in inefficiencies that some don’t want to see fixed, for there’s money to be made in these dark zones. For instance, say your team adopts new technology that improves efficiency. Some might fear that change because greater efficiency can lead to fewer billable hours, at least in the short term before more work can be brought into the system. It’s faulty logic, but that doesn’t make it go away.
Wired UK paints the print media industry as one with mass inefficiencies and a willingness to live with them in an article titled, “All the news that’s fit to bin.”

Retailers are typically irritated if more than 5% of the goods that reach their outlets fail to sell. Many magazine publishers, by contrast, remain content if 40% of their products are returned unsold by retailers.
The industry has a name for managing this mountain of waste. It’s called reverse logistics.
In the words of one dispirited editor: “We’re talking about an industry that prints millions of magazines every month knowing that it will end up pulping 40% of them.
“God help us when someone works out the carbon footprint involved in this. All it would take is a couple of activists, some data and a little bit of coding to blow the lid off the whole thing.”

The waste exists because it’s relatively cheap to produce additional print copies once the presses are up and running. Even though a smaller percentage of a given print overage will end up selling, due to the limited costs of the overage, the publisher still profits.

About David Burn

Native Nebraskan in the Pacific Northwest. Chief Storyteller at Bonehook, a guide service and bait shop for brands. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Contributor to The Content Strategist. Doer of the things written about herein.

  • manan

    Hopefully more and more people will start reading stuff online and that’ll help save 40% of the millions of mag’s that are wasted!
    Cheers! Good Post!

  • Climatarians green communityā€¯

    Some things are really hard to change. When people get used to a certain ways of doing things, they hardly like to change. After all they have done this for ages. Why should they change now, they think. But in order to save the environment, we need to take drastic steps and it has to be done quickly. At Climatarians, we get people together who are interested in ecological issues, in order to make a lasting impact on our environment.