Another of the UK’s magazine printing web offset plants has closed down. This is the factory in Mill Hill belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Organisation and printer of magazines such as the Watchtower. The plant closed on 30 March.
The religious organisation is moving from its site in north London to a former scrapyard near Chelmsford in Essex. Plans for this site included a prominent printery. But this will not be a replacement for the Mill Hill site. European print operations have been reorganised.
Instead long run printed material, including the magazines, will be brought in from the church’s larger plant in Germany. This site produces bibles and books as well as magazines.
The Mill Hill plant had two presses a Hantscho and a Manroland Lithoman installed in 2004. Both were kept in as new condition by members of the church and both will now be sold. The Lithoman has not yet been sold, though negotiations are ongoing. The machine is capable of delivering a 64pp or two 32pp finished products, but interest is likely to be tempered by the unusual format.
The press has a 1480mm web width but an unusual 984.25mm cut off, a cut off suited to the format of the magazines it printed. This is closer to a 48pp press than a 64pp machine. The JWO installed seven of these machines around the world in 2004, subsequently buying a further seven from Manroland.
A spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses says: “While we have secured planning approval for a large printing facility, we have restructured our European operations so that in Britain greater emphasis will be placed on a digital printing arrangement as well as video publications. The two large production buildings being built reflect that change.”
The format of monthly the Watchtower and bimonthly sister publication Awake has changed. Distribution has also reduced as video and digital communications have taken a greater role The magazines are available in digital form, including audio versions, from the organisation’s website. Both remain available in more than 300 languages.
At one time the Watchtower had a global print run of 70 million copies a month according to Wikipedia, giving it a fair claim to be the largest distribution of any magazine in the world albeit outside the scope of ABC or other audits.
The Mill Hill plant had printed the Watchtower and Awake magazines on a Manroland Lithoman installed in 2004, one of several plants around the world. Now with a change in strategy and a move towards digital communications, print is being reorganised.