It’s a couple of months since I posted about our planning a US launch of the service, and I thought it was time for an update.
The biggest and best news is we’ve appointed Nick Mrozowski as our US representative. Nick is a New York-based designer who’s worked for newspapers big and small in the US and Portugal. He loves print, co-creating Ink, a brilliant twice-yearly design journal. He also designed a newspaper that’s just been named the World’s Best Designed, by the Society for News Design (read what they think here – it’s impressive stuff). You can contact him at nick [at] newspaperclub [dot] co [dot] uk.
Nick and I have spent the last few weeks continuing Newspaper Club’s search for printers, particularly in the New York area (Nick is based in New York and it’s easy for us to get to from London). We’ve found some good ones.
However, one of our main criteria was that we wanted to be able to replicate in the US the offer we have in the UK. And we’ve found two issues. First, we haven’t managed to locate a digital printer of newspapers – without one of these we can’t offer the really low, sub-300 copy, production runs. Second, the traditional printers of newspapers are mostly unwilling to print fewer than 1000+ copies (in some cases well into the thousands). They’re also mostly more expensive than our UK printers, especially on their smaller runs. In fact, the cost to a US customer of a UK newspaper – including transatlantic shipping – is in nearly all cases lower than getting one printed down the road.
Why do UK newspaper printers seem to be more flexible and competitive? Nick and I reckon it may be to do with the UK’s contract printing market being well-developed, deep and liquid (i.e. there are plenty of people out there whose sole business it is to print newspapers, and not just for newspaper publishers.) In the US, it seems most newspaper printers are tied to a newspaper publisher and so aren’t as set up for third-party business – which often means lower production runs. I also got the impression that there were far fewer people working at UK newspaper printing plants. Only an impression and, if it’s more than that, I’m not sure why it should be.
Anyway, having spent a few days feeling a bit vexed about this, I suddenly realised that what we were faced with was more promising than a problem. In the immortal words of avian hippy Jonathan Livingstone Seagull: “Every problem has a gift for you in its hands”.
We’re thinking that we should print our US newspapers here in the UK and ship them to the US. What would this look like?
It would feel like an American business to American customers as the US version of the site would be wholly American, in language and currency. We’d also have a presence there, through Nick.
The prices and offer would be competitive (our digital offer, that is our ability to offer very low production runs, may even be unique).
Lead times would be a couple of days longer than in the UK – seven-to-ten days, say, rather than within seven. But that hardly seems significant.
Altogether, then, this sounds like we’d be bringing a big net benefit to anyone wanting to print a newspaper in the US – especially in small volumes. This way we’ll also be able to provide a US version of our offer sooner than we envisaged: we’re working on the US site right now and hope to launch it in the next couple of months.
This experience has made us wonder whether we can use the efficiency and variety of UK newspaper supply – as well as our cheap and comprehensive global distribution – to meet demand for newspapers in other markets.
Communication through newspapers can be an enormous good – for civil society, for health, for education – and there may well be parts of the world where access to newspaper printing, despite being potentially very useful, is actually very difficult. We’ll be seeking out NGOs, in particular, to see if we can help them communicate helpful, important and valuable information across the places they do their work.
These are exciting times for us with many horizons opening up. Please do get in touch if you have any suggestions.