Frankly Speaking: How does a magazine say goodbye after 128 years?

Frank Romano
Aug 22, 2011

In 1967 the printing industry and its suppliers supported over 30 advertising-based magazines:

The nationals: Inland Printer/American Printer, Graphic Arts Monthly, Printing Impressions, Printing Production, Printing Magazine, and Modern Lithography.

The regionals: New England Printer, Southern Printer, Pacific Printer, Southern Printer, Printing Views (midwest), Printing News (New York), and Florida Printer

The inplants: Inplant Printer, Inplant Reproductions, The Office

Publishing: Editor & Publisher, Publishers Auxiliary (weeklies), American Press, Publisher’s Weekly, and Book Industry

The internationals: Canadian Printer, British Printer, El Arte Tipografico, Artes Graficas

The art magazines: Art Direction, Graphic Design USA, CA magazine

Other: Graphic Arts Product News, The Typographical Journal

Later on there were Quick Printer, MicroPublishing News, TypeWorld/Electronic Publishing, PRE-, and Publish.

Here is a collage of some of them that I made in 1967. Yes, I am a hoarder.

1967 collage of advertising-based magazines from the printing industry and its suppliers

1967 collage of ad-based magazines from the printing industry and its suppliers

So it was sad to see this announcement on the American Printer website:

American Printer 1883-2011: It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday Katherine O’Brien, August 19th, 2011

American Printer has published its last issue. There won’t be a September issue.

Penton, our parent company, stuck with us through some mighty lean months, but ultimately, there was no foreseeable model to achieve profitability. (Many of our readers are all too familiar with this problem.)

Published under the auspices of Henry O. Shepard’s printing company, Inland Printer debuted in October 1883. A few years later, Shepard created the Inland Printer Co. to keep his printing plant and publishing activities separate. In addition to publishing the magazine, the Inland Printer Co. produced technical books for the trade and operated the Inland Printer Technical School.

Reeling from the Great Depression, the Inland Printer Co. sold the magazine to Tradepress Publishing Corp. in 1941. In 1945, Maclean-Hunter Publishing Corp. acquired Inland Printer. In November 1958, Maclean Hunter acquired a New York-based publication, originally called The American Printer. In deference to the rapid growth of the offset lithographic industry, the magazine had changed its name to The American Lithographer. The combined Maclean Hunter publications became The Inland and American Printer and Lithographer.

In 1961, the magazine was renamed Inland Printer/American Lithographer. Several other variations ensued. In January 1979, the title changed to American Printer and Lithographer and was subsequently shortened to American Printer in January 1982. The 100th anniversary issue had 286 pages, the largest for any printing industry issue ever; although the 1959 special issue of New England Printer was 250 pages.

As of September 2011, American Printer ceased publication.

It joins Graphic Arts Monthly which bit the dust two years ago after over 70 years. That leaves Printing Impressions and some issues of Printing News as the only printing industry magazines still in print.

I have a set of Inland/American Printer issues from the beginning to 1972. RIT has digitized issues up to the 1950s and will soon put them on line. It is an amazing resource for tracking the evolution of the printing industry.

Today, there are a plethora of blogs, websites, and Facebook forums. InfoTrends has its daily news feed with reports and analysis. WhatTheyThink.com pioneered a web publication that emphasizes premium articles, video, and interaction by readers. Their blogs are so voluminous and specific that I think there is one for printers named Fred. Printing Impressions has done a great job with their web presence.

The day before the AP announcement a printer from Elmira, NY said to me: “GAM and AP called regularly to get me to take the electronic version. I said ‘But you cover the printing industry!?’” The giant publishers that owned GAM and AP took the easy way out. They were never really serious about the web.

In the past, editors were important filters in parsing information. Today you can read the exact words of the press release and then read the comments of readers. I wrote an article recently that said that e-books were overpriced and two readers blogged that I did not know what I was talking about, while 11 people asked me to join them on LinkedIn and Facebook because they agreed.

We know the reason for the demise of print media. There are fewer printers based on the fact that there is less print volume. Even the printing magazines tried to eschew paper, print, and postage. The economy has been a primary issue since 2008, and suppliers have found other ways to engage customers and prospects. It is a brave new world and it will take a while for it all to sort out. In the meantime there will still be print and printers — and print suppliers with the need to communicate and promote.

And most of that communication and promotion will be electronic — which is quite oxymoronic.

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