Proposals could mark the end for covermounts

By Ruth Addicott

Magazine publishers fear they could be stopped from using covermounts if new proposals by the Royal Mail go ahead.

The concerns follow the latest modifications to Royal Mail’s size-based pricing proposals, which publishers have been lobbying against for the past 12 months.

The latest proposals for Presstream include conditions relating to the flatness and flexibility of magazines, which would inevitably raise issues for those which frequently use covermounts such as CDs and DVDs.

Mainstream men’s magazines alone are anticipated to spend £9m on covermounts this year.

The issue was raised by publishers at a PPA board meeting last week and representatives from the PPA are due to meet again within the next few days to establish the true impact.

The main concern previously has always been the larger formatted B2B weeklies.

As many as 300 weekly magazines would be threatened with closure or forced to shrink to a smaller format if the plans go ahead. Those most at risk are the A3 tabloid magazines worth around £85m in revenue to the Royal Mail – equivalent to about one third of B2B publishing’s advertising revenue.

In March, a group of 20 magazine executives met Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton to reiterate their fears. Keith Jones, chief executive of Reed and PPA chairman, told Leighton that publishers remained “deeply concerned” and that size-based pricing would make it difficult, if not impossible, for publishers to run their businesses cost-efficiently.

Royal Mail is expected to submit the proposals to Postcomm at the end of July and the new system is likely to be in place by October 2004.

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