Why 8-12 weeks for new magazine subscriptions?

I recently subscribed for a print copy of a monthly magazine after many years, and was amused to see that they said that the first issue would arrive in “8 to 12 weeks”. Sure enough, it came yesterday, 12 weeks almost to the day from when I had placed the order.

That got me to wondering why it takes so long to get a new subscription in the system. I recall the same 8-12 week delay when I (or my parents) made subscriptions like 20 or 30 years ago, but surely things would have become more efficient?

All I can figure is that the publishers only want to produce exactly the number of copies that they know they would either sell to subscribers or supply to newsstands, and therefore would only adapt their printing capacity on a periodic basis? Is that it or is there another reason?

Did you subscribe directly, or through a third party subscription service?

This has been an issue as long as I can remember.

I have a vague recollection of someone telling me decades ago that the mailing services prepared their packages and labels months in advance and it would cost too much for the publisher to slap a delivery label on any old copy and put it in the mail.

I have no idea whether that’s true. But it is true that many periodicals used to be out to bed months in advance of their cover date.

I recently let the kids’ Sports Illustrated subscription lapse. I started a new subscription online and it said the first issue would arrive in 2-5 weeks. It’s biweekly and we got the next issue which was published, so it came in under two weeks. I guess this shows that the lag isn’t universal, though Sports Illustrated may be on the leading edge since they’re able to do things like having different covers for different areas of the country.

Weird. I subscribed to three magazines via a third party offer while Christmas shopping the week before Christmas and got issues of all three in January.

I subscribed directly on the magazine’s website. It was National Geographic.

My suspicion is that monthly magazines, and those which don’t rely on topical articles (National Geographic checks both of those boxes), may be pre-printing their magazines before their mailing dates, and thus generally have longer lead times for placing new subscribers into their databases.

Weekly and news magazines, on the other hand, are likely printing immediately before mailout, which may make them more nimble in how quickly they can add in new subscribers.

Does anyone remember when you would buy something from a catalog and the shipping time was always “6 to 8 weeks”?

I understand a week for them to get the order in the mail and process it and a week for them to actually ship it but what the hell are they doing for the other 6 weeks?

Ha! Remember this from when I was a kid. 6-8 weeks seemed like an eternity.

Waiting for it to be built?

Supply chains are vastly more nimble than they used to be.

Most, but not all, magazines don’t use labels any more. They simply spray addresses on a white box on the cover of the magazine itself.

We all see what he done there, right?