Michael Swarr, VP of Postal and Distribution Affairs, talks about the evolution of National Geographic Magazine.
Michael Swarr, VP of Postal and Distribution Affairs:
Well on January 13th, 1888,
the original founders of National Geographic
got together to discuss the diffusion of
And they were primarily focusing on mountains,
rivers, oceans, air,
the major geographical features of the planet.
And over the years National Geographic has taken this
more towards a social environment where they
blended both human elements, animals,
plants, geographic features, altogether,
in an attempt to show how everything works together
and everything depends on one another.
The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.
Women sealing and mailing envelopes at the NGS Eckington Building.
National Geographic Magazine started publication in October 1888 as the official journal of the National Geographic Society, a nonprofit dedicated to funding science and exploration across the planet. Since then, National Geographic has grown to become one of the most iconic brands in the world. The magazine reaches around 60 million readers worldwide each month. Following in the footsteps of the magazine, the brand has expanded to include the National Geographic Channel, NationalGeographic.com and a social footprint that touches more than 30 million people. The magazine has a celebrated history as an innovative place for photography — from creating the first photographic survey of the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere to making the first color photographs undersea, and it continues to push technological and creative boundaries. Over time, the magazine has redefined itself as a committed outlet for world-class photojournalism, documenting the wonders of the planet and tackling serious issues around environmental and human rights.
Krueger Ringier's Mail Room- National Geographic Magazine Envelope
Today, National Geographic is expanding the scope of its visual storytelling, experimenting with digital experiences to find new ways of documenting the world and of allowing readers to interact with content. In addition to its leadership in photographic technology and storytelling, over the course of its history the magazine’s images have documented numerous discoveries and expeditions (many funded by the National Geographic Society), from the first American ascent of Everest to Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey’s work with primates in Africa to Jacques Cousteau’s dives and James Cameron’s historic solo descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2012. It has been a window on the world for generations of readers, and its photographic archives comprise 11.5 million images, including vintage glass-plate negatives and rare Kodachrome transparencies. The magazine is currently published in English and 40 local-language editions. It is also available on digital newsstands.
Michael Swarr talks about the importance of the cover of the magazine.
The cover of the magazine.
The cover of the magazine obviously is the brand image of the journal.
Yellow border, everybody recognizes it worldwide.
One thing that we do to protect the cover,
and have since day one,
we first started out putting the magazine in an envelope,
and then we migrated to a craft wrap,
and we have since then migrated to
a poly wrap for the magazine to protect the magazine
on its way to the subscribers.
Now we don't look at the cover of the magazine
as the sole element that makes it a collectible
but it's the content that people really relate to
as far as the photographs and the research that's done
on all the texts in the magazine.
It's actually used as a resource,
or a research document,
because everyone perceives
National Geographic to be very accurate,
timely, viable piece of information.
Hans Wegner, retired manufacturing and distribution team and National
Geographic Society Sustainability Team, talks about the history of the magazine.
Well when the magazine was first published
it was really a little booklet and it was
published as an academic journal
to keep that people who are the founders
and their target audience,
which is the scientific community,
up to date on scientific discoveries
about the world.
Obviously the magazine changed
dramatically over the course of time.
It expanded its coverage to be not just interested in geography
but also interested in people, and cultures,
and artifacts, and climate, and space,
and science, and all the other things
that entailed developments of the world.
And in doing so, the magazine has increasingly become more appealing
to a larger audience.
And the appeal came in the form of publishing pictures,
the appeal came in the form of adding map data,
the appeal came in the form of being written to an audience
which is not quite as high brow maybe,
and more of a popular magazine.
And the magazine's real growth spurt came,
probably starting after the Second World War
and certainly in the 1950s
with the real boom coming in the 1960s
when there was great interest among American families
to have a journal in their household
which their children could pick up
and read and even if they couldn't read a magazine
they could look at the pictures,
and learn from the maps, and study the maps,
and in the course of that absorb information
and learn, by reading the captions, how to read.
So a big appeal and the big growth
for the magazine came in the 1960s and 1970s
so that by the mid-1980s we had reached
a circulation of over 10 million magazines.
112 Years of Real Involvement
- January 13, 1888: Thirty-three founding members meet at the Cosmos Club, creating a society for the increase and diffusion of geographic knowledge.
- October 1888: National Geographic started their publication.
- 1890-91: First National Geographic Society-sponsored expedition maps Mount St. Elias region, Alaska; discovers Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak.
- January 7, 1898: Alexander Graham Bell assumes National Geographic Society’s presidency.
- April 6, 1909: Robert E. Peary is first to reach North Pole in National Geographic Society-supported expedition.
- 1912-1915: National Geographic Society-supported expeditions led by Hiram Bingham excavate Machu Picchu, lost mountaintop city of the Inca, in the Peruvian Andes.
- 1920: Gilbert H. Grosvenor becomes President of National Geographic Society (through 1954).
- 1926: National Geographic staff photographers Charles Martin and scientist W.H. Longley make first natural-color underwater pictures.
- November 29, 1929: Richard E. Byrd achieves man’s flight over South Pole; photographs 60,000 square miles of Antarctica from the air.
- 1930: Melville Bell Grosvenor makes first published natural-color aerial photographs.
- 1941: National Geographic Society opens its storehouse of photographs, maps, and other cartographic data to President Roosevelt and the U.S. armed forces to aid war efforts.
- October 1952: The magazine publishes first of many undersea articles by Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
- August 1956: The magazine publishes deepest undersea photographs made to date, from 25,000 feet down in mid-Atlantic Romanche Trench.
- September 1960: National Geographic reports discovery of manlike Zinjanthropus, more than 1,750,000 years old, by Louis and Mary Leakey.
- 1961: Jane Goodall begins study of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream Park using National Geographic funds.
- June 1962: John Glenn carries National Geographic Society flag on first U.S. orbital space flight.
- May 1963: First Americans conquer Mount Everest in National Geographic Society-supported expedition.
- September 1965: National geographic Society launches on CBS with its first Special “Americans On Everest.” This show provides the first moving pictures from the summit of Mount Everest.
- December 1965: “Miss Goodall and the World of Chimpanzees” introduces the television-viewing audience to Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees.
- 1967: Dian Fossey begins long-term National Geographic Society-funded study of mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
- July 1969: Apollo 11 astronauts carry National Geographic Society flag to moon.
- October 1978: National Geographic reports sign-language skills of Koko the gorilla, following six years of National Geographic Society-funded training by Francine Patterson.
- April 1979: Mary Leakey reports discovery of 3.6 million-year-old footprints believed to be from the slow-walking ancestors of modern man, in the volcanic ash of a riverbed in Tanzania.
- January 1980: “Dive to the Edge of Creation” introduces Dr. Robert Ballard to TV screens on an early, dangerous descent in a submersible, as he plunges down more than a mile and a half into the sea and becomes the first to view an ecosystem that thrives without light at the bottom of the ocean. He later employs similar technology to find the Titanic.
- 1984: Undersea archeology pioneer George F. Bass, supported by the Society, discovers most extensive collection of Bronze Age trade goods ever found beneath the sea, in a 3,400 year-old shipwreck off southern Turkey.
- 1985: National eographic Society launches Geography Education Program, with goal of improving geography instruction in school systems.
- September 1985: Results of R.M.S. Titanic discovery announced at National Geographic Society by Robert D. Ballard.
- May 1, 1986: Six members of Steger International Polar Expedition—including one woman—are first to reach North Pole by dog sled without resupply since Peary in 1909.
- October 1986: Senior Associate Editor Joseph Judge reports after years of study that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World at Samana Cay in the Bahamas.
- January 1989: National Geographic Bee program is launched, to create greater geographic awareness among students.
- January 1993: Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago announces discovery of the world’s earliest dinosaur in a news conference at Society headquarters.
- 1995: Polar Explorer Will Steger leads five-person, 1200 mile journey from Russia to Canada across the Arctic Ocean. The expedition makes telecommunications history by communicating daily with millions worldwide via the Internet and sending the first digital images from the North Pole.
- September 1997: National Geographic Channels Worldwide launches an international television channel in Australia and the United Kingdom.
- March 1998: Expeditions Council is created. In its first year, it contributes almost $1 million to fun expeditions to some of the most fascinating, little-known places on earth.
- May 1998: Midway expedition led by Dr. Robert Ballard discovers U.S.S. Yorktown.
- June 1998: National Geographic announces discovery of fossil dinosaurs in China that have distinct feathers, cementing the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.
- November 1998: Paul Sereno and colleagues announced the discovery of a huge predatory dinosaur in the Sahara in the Republic of Niger in West Africa. Named Suchomimus tenerensis, but commonly known as the Spinosaurus, the dinosaur had a skill like a crocodile, foot-long thumb and specialized in eating fish.
- January 1999: A team led by Ian Baker discovers a secret waterfall of the Tsangpo Gorge in southern Tibet. A myth since the 19th century, Hidden Falls measurers 115 feet in height, and was kept secret by the Monpa hunters for hundreds of years, due to the sacredness of the area, and its value as a place of pilgrimage.
- March 1999: High-altitude archaeologist Johan Reinhard discovers three frozen mummies and exquisite Inca artifacts in a grave atop Argentina’s Mount Llullaillaco, the world’s highest archaeological site.
- September 2000: Explorer-in Residence Robert Ballard finds evidence of human habitation 300 feet below the surface of the Black Sea, lending credibility to “Noah’s Flood” theory.
- January 2001: National Geographic Channel launches on cable and satellite television in the United States.
Michael Swarr talks about the distribution process.
The distribution process has changed a lot
based on the medium in which people
are now buying products and shipping products.
Domestically we see a lot of packages coming in
through e-commerce that we have to accommodate for.
The post office is doing the same thing with their package mail.
This is a very revenue oriented mail class for them.
As far as National Geographic Magazine is concerned,
we've done a lot of changes in the international distribution side
where we do direct induction into a country
via containers on vessels.
Here in the States we tried to co-mail our magazines with other mailers
so that we can get higher densities and better presorts.
All of it is, starts out to be cost related to see how
we can blend the different mailing aspects together.
And we've been fairly successful in doing so,
enabled to remain competitive,
and a ROI that's comparable
to all of the magazines in the industry, I would have to say.
Hans Wegner talks about the advertising of the magazine.
The the advantage to the advertising sales staff
is they can now sell very specifically targeted ads
for let's say an expensive car line
to very specifically targeted households
that have an income of in excess of a certain number
because that's the audience for that model car
and that allows the advertising sales force
to go out and target and sell targeted packages
and get it delivered in a wide distribution magazine
such as a National Geographic
to very targeted audiences.
Michael Swarr talks about the changes the magazine has and will face.
The Internet and people paying bills online
has changed the first class mail environment.
The e-commerce has changed
not only the standard mail and catalogue industry
but it's also change the post office's
package delivery system.
So now the loss in first class revenue
is being partially offset by the package.
So once you feel that you have a handle
on the current medium and regulations
associated with today's mail industry
it will change.
So it's a constant flux of trying
to keep up with new technological changes.