Beyond Print Toolkit: Manufacturing and distribution

In order to make informed decisions about the transition beyond print, leaders need to be familiar with the manufacturing and distribution process.

By Joseph Lichterman

June 27, 2024

A pair of hands holding a newspaper that says "breaking news" against a yellow background
Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Newspapers are called the daily miracle for a reason. The printing and distribution of a newspaper is a carefully choreographed process with many moving parts, and oftentimes even the most experienced news executives aren’t familiar with every single step. 

However, in order to make informed decisions about the transition beyond print, leaders need to be familiar with every point of the process so they can make decisions about how reducing or eliminating print will impact their bottom line. 

For an overview of the newspaper printing process — from when the final page designs are sent from the newsroom to the printing facility to when finished papers roll off the presses and head out to distribution facilities — we recommend this short video, which illustrates each step of the printing process at The New York Times’s Queens, New York facility. 

In addition to printing about 40% of The New York Times’s daily print run, the facility also prints more than two dozen other publications. An increasing number of publications across the country have shuttered their printing plants and are outsourcing their print operations as a way to save. However, the decision means that papers are often printed further away from their core market, which means earlier deadlines and possibly less coverage in the print edition of the paper. For example, news of former President Donald Trump’s conviction in New York did not make the following day’s edition of The Indianapolis Star. The jury reached its decision just after 5 p.m. EDT, but the Star — which is printed three hours away in Peoria, Illinois — has a 4 p.m. EDT press run.

For most daily papers, once the finished paper rolls off the presses, pre-print advertisements are stuffed into the papers, and they’re then loaded onto trucks where they’re shipped to warehouses across the outlet’s distribution area where they’ll be then handed off to delivery drivers who will bring them to retail outlets and subscribers’ homes. (Retail delivery drivers also collect leftover papers and any money from sales that they then bring back to the distribution center.)

Many weekly or monthly papers rely on the United States Postal Service for delivery, and an increasing number of daily papers are switching to postal delivery. For more on the benefits and challenges of partnering with the post office, check out our postal delivery section.

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