In a major move in the plastics publishing market, United Business Media Ltd. will stop printing Injection Molding Magazine and Modern Plastics Worldwide.
The last editions of the monthly magazines will be published in April. The last day for most of the publications' staffers is March 31, according to sources.
The company's plastics publishing efforts will shift to the Web, where it runs the Plastics Today.com site.
That strategy is not a surprise in magazine circles, since UBM has been upfront in saying it is managing for the decline of print products. The London-based company is focusing instead on trade shows and data businesses.
In the plastics market, UBM sponsors the Plastec and Plast-Ex trade shows, which it collocates with shows that primarily focus on the medical and packaging sectors and design.
UBM bought Canon Communications LLC, which owned the magazines, on Oct. 22 for $287 million.
Without monthly magazines to produce, the company will keep two editorial staffers, Matt Defosse, currently the editor of MPW, and senior editor Tony Deligio. They will be assisted by regular freelancers.
Among the key employees being laid off are senior group publisher Patrick Lundy and Rob Neilley, editor-in-chief of IMM.
The decision to go to Web-only is a recent phenomenon in the trade publishing business. Canon has done it before, with Appliance Magazine, which stopped publishing in 2010, although it lives on as a website.
Some computer-related magazines also have shifted to Web-only, jettisoning the expenses of printing, paper and postage.
In UBM's most recent earnings release, the company noted that revenues for all of its print products fell 13.1 percent in 2010, and now account for only 16.2 percent of UBM's total. The release said UBM was following a strategy to manage our print magazine portfolio towards a smaller, more profitable and commercially sustainable set of titles.
Injection Molding Magazine and Modern Plastics have gone through a series of ownership changes. For Modern Plastics, which dates to 1925 and was owned by McGraw-Hill Cos. for 36 years, most of the changes came after IMM's parent bought Modern in 1999.
Both magazines have a colorful history. The oldest U.S. plastics trade magazine, Modern Plastics served as the voice for the plastics industry for decades. In its early days, the magazine reported industry news and played a key role in promoting the new materials to industry and product designers.
Injection Molding Magazine gained a reputation as a clearly written, monthly publication with company profiles and practical articles for molders. The magazine was started in 1993, launched by the newly formed Abby Communications. Several years later, Abby's owners, T. Peter Sullivan, Peter Zacher and Suzy Witzler, announced the sale of Abby to Canon Communications, a California-based publisher of trade magazines and trade shows focused on the medical, pharmaceutical and electronics industries.
Canon, in turn, was owned by Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a merchant bank that invests in media companies.
Veronis had purchased Modern Plastics from McGraw Hill in 1999.
Then, in 2005, Veronis Suhler Stevenson sold Canon Communications including MP, IMM, and 22 other trade magazines in medical and manufacturing, and numerous trade shows and several medical trade magazines to specialty magazine publisher Apprise Media LLC.
United Business Media Ltd. bought Canon from Apprise Media in a deal announced Sept. 16.
When it ceases publication, Modern Plastics will end a run that began in the days when plastics was a tiny industry limited to thermosets like Bakelite and a handful of chemical solvents and plasticizers.
The original magazine was called Plastics. Its name got changed in 1927 to Plastics & Molded Products, and the editor, a chemical patent lawyer, began to cover new product applications, materials and processing technology, according to the book American Plastic: A Cultural History by Jeffrey Meikle.
After the stock market crash, Williams Haynes, who published a chemical directory, took over the magazine. During the Great Depression, he tightened up the name to Plastic Products, and broadened the focus to promote the young plastics industry to all industrial consumers.
A pivotal point came in 1934, when Charles Breskin bought Plastic Products. Breskin already published Modern Packaging, described in American Plastic as a visually sophisticated magazine that sought to promote packaging innovations as a way to lure consumer spending in the Depression.
Breskin hired a noted graphic designer to create a slick magazine, and in September 1934, the new Modern Plastics was born. The magazine touted plastics as a material that could help attract consumers of everything from radios to clocks to electric shavers.
Robert Martino, Modern Plastics' editor from 1985-93, said it was an important industry leader back before the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. trade group in Washington was created.
In the period from 1925 when Modern Plastics was founded, and 1937 when SPI was founded, Modern Plastics served as a quasi-institutional force for the industry. It was the only unifying voice for the industry until SPI came along, he said.
Martino, who worked at Modern for 20 years and now runs a public relations firm, said the publication grew along with the plastics industry after World War II.
For a long time, it was certainly the pre-eminent magazine in the industry, he said.
Modern Plastics and SPI even shared an important industry leader, William T. Cruse. In 1940, Cruse left Celluloid Corp. to become editor of the magazine, then resigned to head up SPI.
Other key figures included Sid Gross, longtime Modern Plastics editor, and Gordon Klein, who Breskin recruited as technical editor in 1936. Kline held that position for more than 50 years before retiring during the late 1980s. Klein helped pioneer international standards for plastics, heading the Plastics Section at the National Bureau of Standards for many years.
Breskin, Cruse, Gross and Kline are in the Plastics Hall of Fame.
McGraw-Hill bought Modern Plastics in 1963.
UBM Canon officials were not available for comment for this story. Paul Miller, CEO of the company's publishing division, referred questions to Stephen Corrick, vice president and executive director of the division, who referred reporters back to Miller.