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American Printer to cease publication

Press release from the issuing company

Katherine O’Brien Editor-in-Chief at American Printer wrote on the American Printer website, "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."

The history of the American printing industry is in the pages of Inland/American Printer.

In her farewell letter, O’Brien provides a footnote with the history of the publication:

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.


By Charles Corr on Aug 20, 2011

A sad loss for what is a greatly diminished industry.


By Clifford Smith on Aug 22, 2011

Evidence of a "dead industry walking". If there are not enough of us left to support printing trade journals there is no real market left, is there?


By Pete Basiliere on Aug 22, 2011

What a shame; this is, indeed, a loss for our industry. Best wishes to Katherine and the other staffers at American Printer.

The "printing industry" is diminished in the traditional sense but it is also different from just a few years ago.

For example, WhatTheyThink and PrintWeek (which recently launched a US edition) have supplanted printed trade magazines like American Printer and Graphic Arts Monthly.


By Thaddeus B Kubis on Aug 22, 2011

Print is dead, long live Print!

After many years of wondering which of the two remaining "books" that served the graphic arts industry would go the way of the dodo bird first, last week American Print announced that it would cease publication at the end of August, 2011. Graphic Arts Monthly, the Bible of the Industry was the first to cease publication, over the past 7 years many other titles, national, regional, topic, niche publications followed. This recession is more than a recession for the publishing industry; in certain segments it is worst then the great recession it has been billed as, it’s more like a depression.
I’m not here to summarize the graphic arts industries sad shape of affairs, nor am I going to comment on the reasons why AP, as American Printer was known closed. No I’m going to convert the Old English chant (well at least from a recent Robin Hood film) that the King is dead, long live the King or in my terms, Print is Dead, Long Live Print.
Print media died in the print industry for multiple reasons, but it’s not to be mourned, the rebirth of print at least in this industry is to be celebrated.
Printing Impression, for whom for I write a blog has an opportunity to redefine itself and the balance of the books within this and other industries. PI can now as they say “clean the blackboard”, “draw a new line in the sand”, or any other cliché that fits. I among others are willing to help, to reshape, define and convert as needed, we all have much to gain and much more to lose.
The integration of online and print books needs to be considered and the expansion from advertising services to marketing services must be reviewed and examined. The storyline of bundled articles that take a look at the full complement of the print process need to be written and partnerships with magazines that support, both the front end like Graphic Design USA and back end like Chief Marketer of the business are now critical.
Print is not a standalone industry, (think of the coal industry) it may still be one of the top ten industries in the USA, but it is reliant on the preprint, marketing and post print process as much as those processes are reliant on print. A partnership with the key vendors in the industry also needs to be struck, yes it will blur the separation between Editorial and Advertising, but this has happened across other media. This industry needs to look to the recreational marine and automobile industries to see the many ways their publications have adapted to increased media pressure and supporting their key media partners.
Trade events and trade shows outside of the print industry have been bundling supply chain services and vendors for a few years and advertisers look to the indirect marketing for ad and other media placement. The world of mobile has and will continue to impact the convergence of media as well social networks, have you heard that you can now rent "The Big Lebowski" from Facebook!
I don't expect to rent a film from the Printing Impressions or any other magazine just right now, no, but I do expect to have some sort of video mobile based interactive media services that will allow me a greater view of the scope of the print process, from as many valid and relevant angles and points of view as possible. Don’t you wonder how print is viewed outside our “Land of Print”, I do?
I for one would like to hear how print media and print itself play a role in the marketing of national and international sales efforts and why is print chosen or not. I look to the innovation of Hearst and Conde Nash and would like to see what has been done to Esquire and House Beautiful (among others) introduced to our marketplace. The introduction of emerging technologies, interaction and integrated is now rampant in the cable TV arena. Have you viewed an episode of Strike Back on Cinemax? If you have not, take a look. They offer (as did CSI and other broadcast series) links to expanded viewing, comments and coverage of the show and it's main characters. Look to any sporting event and see the convergence of all media being offered via a website or external links.
I hope that this change in the print book landscape is seen as an opportunity and not another sign of the industry dying. Many have felt that this industry had too many books anyway, and I am sure that those pundents are smiling.
Smile, indeed but smile for the opportunity not for the decline.
Publishing is going through a rebirth, a redefining of its very ink based soul. This opportunity is for anyone in the industry to take full advantage of, and if no one does, then yes, Print is Dead, killed and eaten by it’s own.
I have known the many editors and publishers of American Printer across the years; they have been to me more then a source, more like professional friends. Some have become real personal friends and for those, all of those, I am sad. They face a different challenge, a challenge of a great nation changing its soul. To them I wish the best of luck and much success.
Print is dead, long live Print.


By Patrick Henry on Aug 22, 2011

We have a lot to ponder in Thad’s thoughtful comment, but I'd like to address the one point that I think cuts straight to the heart of what happened to American Printer. Thad writes:

"A partnership with the key vendors in the industry also needs to be struck, yes it will blur the separation between Editorial and Advertising, but this has happened across other media."

AP, like Graphic Arts Monthly, the Innes magazines, and others before it, was an advertising-supported, controlled-circulation trade periodical that depended almost entirely on print advertising sales for its revenue. When the recession battered the equipment manufacturers that had always been the mainstays of AP's advertising base, that income dried up. AP, charging no subscription fees to "qualified" recipients of the publication, had nothing to replace it. Hence Katherine O'Brien's sad observation that AP's parent publishing company could find no "foreseeable model to achieve profitability."

The real issue is the disappearance of print advertising revenue for B2B publications in the graphic arts space—a revenue stream that is not going to come back, at least not in the volumes that prevailed when AP and GAM were healthy. That model no longer works, and no "partnership" with vendors is going to resuscitate it. Ask any B2B publisher or editor: the partnership has existed for many years, and the line between editorial and advertising already has been blurred, over and over again, to the extent that it could benefit anybody.

As Thad points out, printing still is a top-ten, multibillion-dollar manufacturing industry. Its need for first-rate trade journalism—the kind steadfastly provided by Katherine, Bill Esler, and their colleagues—hasn't diminished. But the time has come to ask whether the members of this prosperous industry shouldn't be expected to invest in the preservation of high-value editorial coverage as paying subscribers to the publications that help them share in the prosperity. If readers don't ride to the economic rescue of graphic arts trade publications, who else will?

As one revenue model fades, another model must arise to take its place. The new one could be exciting. Reader-supported means reader-focused, editorially independent and journalistically vibrant. There is more than enough writing and reporting talent on the graphic arts beat to generate the content. Have we the vision to underwrite it by putting our money where our best interest as readers is?


By Chuck Gehman on Aug 22, 2011

You are reading this comment on the website that replaced the subject of the article.

It's ironic.

Randy Davidson had the foresight to make WTT work, back in the days when everyone thought "dotcoms" were a fad.

Nothing prevented AP and GAM from creating a robust web presence of their own.

In fact, as each year past the cost and level of effort to do so decreased dramatically compared to when Randy launched.

However, the level of effort to acquire subscribers and advertisers to an unproven web platform did not change. And the cost to acquire sales talent that could sell online ads became impossible for a Graphic Arts pub.

As a result Randy already had the lion's share of online spending allocated by most of the vendors. And, he was actually the one who helped them get started marketing online when they hadn't done it before-- partnering.

The same "resistance to change" that made it a struggle for Randy to attract them to online marketing in the first place, now acted against the incumbent print publications.

Coupled with their lack of timely content and old fashioned publishing schedules, they got stuck in the muck like dinosaurs. Very, very sad. But foreseeable.

Randy and his team continue to roll out new features and their subscriber base grows. Good for them! Go WTT!



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