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Paper Options: Looking Good Without Breaking the Bank

How to cut trim size and paper while keeping quality high.

By Matt Kinsman

As publishers look to cut costs, paper and trim size are among the first to go under the knife. But that doesn’t mean the magazine necessarily has to sacrifice quality looks (and a quality feel) to save money.

FOLIO: itself is looking to save, and with this issue switched from 60# Liberty Gloss to 50# Liberty Gloss while reducing trim size by 1/4”.

Other publishers are seeing significant savings in paper changes that don’t necessarily trumpet the fact that a change has taken place. However, that means reductions need to occur in other areas. Gems & Gemology, the magazine for the Gemological Institute of America, saved about $10,000 by switching from a 70# Opus to a 70# Somerset last year. “We’re restricted in going much further because of the need to maintain high standards of photo reproduction,” says managing editor Tom Overton. “As a result, we’ve had to slightly reduce our page count this year.”

Going Green (and Saving $100K)

While many publishers are finding environmentally-friendly solutions are actually more expensive than their typical business practice (and many are being shelved as a result), paper is one area in which publishers can go green and still save money.

In January, all of Northstar Travel Media’s magazines began printing on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper (which requires all parties in the chain of custody—paper mill, paper merchant, publisher and printer—to be certified). Northstar partnered with Germany-based Leipa, which has a plant dedicated to recycled paper (and also provides the paper for Fast Company and Inc.) “I can buy paper there for less than what I pay for coated ground wood in the U.S.,” says Northstar production director Robert Brai. “We will save close to $100,000 for the year. It’s an option for people that want to go FSC certified without seeing an impact on the bottom line.”

The change was originally a marketing play for Northstar. “We saw it as an opportunity to differentiate from some of the magazines in our sector rather than a way to save money but that’s how it turned out,” says Brai. “There are a lot of companies out there who say, yes, we’d like to be green but we don’t want the bottom line to be impacted. As far as the paper market goes, it’s still very much a buyer’s market out there.”

How to Offset an Increase In Paper Stock

With its September 2008 issue, Bonnier’s Skiing bucked the trend of lowering paper grades and trim size by boosting trim size from 7 7/8 x 10 1/2 to 8 1/2 x 10 7/8 and raising paper quality from 38# grade 5 to 40# grade 4 in an effort to make the magazine wider and taller, allowing for a cleaner, design-driven book.

Skiing was able to compensate for increased paper costs by reducing the print order, with circulation going down from 400,000 to 300,000.

“We got a great reaction from advertisers and readers,” says editor Jake Bogoch. “Our photographers have especially noticed. Previously, we were pretty sure we were given ‘second look,’ meaning photographers would send their best to a rival magazine, then, when the best shots were selected, we’d get the dregs. The fact that photos don’t print through pages that once were made of lower quality was a huge help.”

By Matt Kinsman

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