The world of magazine publishing has changed tremendously over the past 30 years. When Emily and I launched Columbia Metropolitan in 1990, we were on the cusp of the digital revolution, but at that time analog systems were still the norm, requiring much more time and effort to print a four-color magazine than it does today. While we no longer used typesetters, galleys, and boards in 1990, the computer on which we entered articles and designed layouts was a tiny gray-screened Macintosh SE. This was cutting edge technology at the time, and I remember staring over Cathy Beale Bagley’s shoulder in awe as she designed a page in Adobe PageMaker. By today’s standard, that little Macintosh SE and design software is like a Model T.
Articles were entered and the copy flowed into PageMaker for the rough layout. Blank spaces were left for photos or artwork, which was sized and cropped; when the layouts were finished, they were saved onto floppy disks. The disks, artwork, and photos, which had to be shot as slides, were then overnighted to a pre-press house in Charlotte. Many times we could not make the 6 p.m. FedEx deadline and would have to use the Greyhound bus to send everything up to North Carolina. I remember going down to the old bus station on Gervais Street late at night. At pre-press, everything was turned into film, and proofs were sent back to us. The pre-press process took a week to complete. After we finished final proofing, the film was sent to the printer, which at that time was located in Mississippi just south of Memphis. Once the printer received the film, every page had to be burned onto plates for the printing process. It took the printer two weeks to complete all aspects and ship the magazine.
Today, we upload the magazine to the printer’s website in a process that only takes a few hours. I can’t even imagine how fast print production may be in the next 30 years. “What print,” you may ask. “Won’t everything be digital at that point?” Interestingly, research shows that glossy lifestyle magazines with interesting articles and stunning photography are still widely popular, including with our roughly 100,000 readers today. Please join us in the decades ahead as we see where our journey in print takes us.