Why are the months on Magazines off by so much?

Here’s a scan of the lower corner of an EGM. http://www.dealsdepot.com/images/april1.jpg

Why is it that the April issue, received in late February, is only good until April 1?

It seems to me that the April issue should be good up until April 30th. Is the “advanced dating” method just to trick unwitting customers into buying what seems to be a magazine from the future? Or is there another nefarious scheme I don’t know about?

Same reason stuff causes $99.95 instead of $100.

Magazine dating developed so that vendors would keep them on the shelves longer. Think of it like freshness dating on milk. If you see a bottle with an expiration date several days in the future you think it is fresher than one whose expiration date is today.

The custom of dating magazines a month ahead of time developed along more or less the same path. Dealers would pull magazines off the shelves if they seemed to be old, every if newer copies hadn’t come in. Advertisers didn’t like that. The problem is that dates seem to get earlier and more out of sync every year.

I can’t seem to find any books on the History of Magazine Publishing on my shelves, so I can’t give you a time and place for when this started. I think it was around the 1930s, but I may easily be wrong about this.

In general, magazines are dated ahead to let them stay on the shelves longer and give them a longer selling life.

Let’s say a magazine that hits the stands in February is dated February. When March 1 rolls around, no one is likely to buy it (after all, it’s “last month’s issue”) and the store/newsstand/whatever will probably pull it off the shelf for the same reason.

However, if the same magazine is dated April, it will stay out there another two months giving it more time to be sold.

The purpose of the “display until April 1” note in your link is to tell the store/newsstand/whatever owner to leave the magazine on the shelf until April 1 and not to pull it automatically when the next issue of the magazine comes in.

As for why the April issue “expires” on April 1 instead of April 30, I don’t know. Kind of defeats the purpose of advance dating the magazine in the first place.

Cecil’s take:

Wow. I didn’t remember Cecil’s column, and it was sheer coincidence that I came up with the same milk freshness date comparison. Or does it mean that I think like Cecil? A proud moment indeed.

GAMES Magazine really amuses me with there dating.

Their “World of Puzzles” April issue (which I’m in cause I won a T-Shirt, woo hoo) is to be displayed until March 25, 7 days before its dated month starts. The March issue is to be displayed until Feb 18, 11 days before March. One wonders how far they will go.

One thing not mentioned in Cecil’s column (or this thread so far) is that when this practice developed in the 30’s - 40’s, magazine distribution was often spotty. That means that any given issue might come in late or not at all, so the problem of vendors pulling an outdated issue was a much more significant one than it is today.


Another reason for the “display until” date: some magazines are one-off issues. My own company produces an annual “holidays” issue and an occasional “dream homes” issue; so the retailer is contracted to display the holidays issue from, say, October 15 through January 1. There won’t be another issue coming along to replace that one; they simply remove it and stick in some other magazine.

And just a further FYI–all the dates are pretty arbitrary to us in the industry. People always say to me, “I love that story you did in this month’s issue.”

Which month?

Do you mean the month that we’re actually in now (February), the one that’s on newstands (March), the one that’s printed and sitting here in our offices but not yet distributed to anyone else (April), the one that we’re proofing and shipping to the printers this week (May), the one that we’re writing (June), the one that we’re researching (July) or the one that our decorating editors are shooting right now (February 2004)?

Not to mention that the sum total of all the IQ’s of all the individuals that are employed in the magazine distribution industry would not reach 100 points if the total score was doubled.

The whole business is a scandal. 60% of all the magazines printed for retail sale are never sold and end up shredded as waste. The Sierra Club should take on the industry but they publish a magazine that suffers the same fate.

While there might be some merit to the stale milk analogy it is more likely that years ago some drunk that was responible for assigning issues was too stupid to read a caledar and got away with it for years before anyone figured out that he was assigning months at random.

Try doing business with those idiots, you’ll see what I mean. :smack:

This is not really relevant, but…
Transworld Skate Magazine sent me the April issue in the beginning of February. It has articles that refrence things happening in December as “new.” Pretty soon I’ll get the May issue in March with January’s “news.” This cheeses me off to now avail. I like the magazine though.

While I have no great love for many in my industry, Spartydog, I’d still appreciate it if you’d keep that sort of thing in the Pit.

It’s the same logic that allows you to buy the “new 2004 Nissan” in May of 2003.

Many magazines with smaller circulation appear to stick more closely to the actual dates on their covers. I subscribe to The Progressive, Z Magazine, Dollars and Sense, Columbia Journalism Review, and a few others, and they all arrive in my mailbox in the month printed on the cover. I’m not sure exactly when they hit the newsstands, however, as i don’t pay that much attention.

The only magazine i subscribe to that really misses the date is The Nation. It’s a weekly, and i received the March 3, 2003 issue about a week ago (around February 19).