The basic idea behind paper buying is to strike the right balance between cost and quality. Determine your organization’s priorities, and make your compromises accordingly.
Some publishers, though, have gotten more creative in their cost awareness. Much of this has to do with the changing role of print. Robert Cucciniello, Ogden Publications’ newsstand, production and circulation manager, says despite “that weird belief that print is dead,” his company’s print products are thriving—particularly its special interest publications, referred to as “bookazines.” Ogden’s Mother Earth News produces eight of these per year, printed on a heavier, brighter version of the recycled paper it purchases from Futuremark, and have seen more than 40 percent sell-through rates. “Consumers are looking for more concentrated information on a particular topic that’s longer lasting and may be used as a reference,” he says.
The longevity of the product is also a concern for Scientific American senior production manager Christina Hippeli. “It’s definitely not a disposable product,” she says. “Scientific American has very complex, detailed and commissioned artwork, so our primary consideration is always to present that with the best reproductive quality we can within the confines of having an affordable product.” SciAm text pages have been on a UPM grade number 5 coated groundwood for a while now; for the cover, it switched to Sappi’s Opus paper a couple years ago. Newsstand copies also get a UV coating for the cover, while subscriber copies do not.
How Green is Green?
Less widely talked about is the subject of green paper options, though for some, this concern is top of mind.
“We need more and better choices for environmentally responsible paper,” says Claudia Smukler, production director for Mother Jones. “I am encouraged by the decades-long effort by publishers and activists who have advocated for greater transparency about environmental improvements in the paper industry, but frankly what has happened is mostly greenwashing.” While she says there is an increased use of third-party certifications and more disclosure about energy consumption, it’s vital to keep the pressure on.
Cucciniello at Ogden agrees. His magazines are published on a 50 pound glossy paper—the only viable option he sees in the North American post consumer waste paper market. While he says it would take a “really good product” to steer him away from Futuremark, continued price increases may force the company’s hand: “We’ll go on the virgin paper if we have to, with a big note on the cover to say, economically, this is the reason we had to do this and we need your support, your voices to be heard, to make that demand. I don’t know if there’s enough demand from the consumer that everything should be on recycled paper.”
The Business Case for Investing in Paper
Hearst’s Elle brand is prepping to relaunch an extension, Elle Accessories (defunct in 2008, under the former Hachette Filipacchi), this fall. The magazine, published twice per year, will include roughly 200 pages printed on an oversized stock, with an initial print run of 500,000. While many publishers are looking to cut trim sizes and basis weights as a way to streamline cost, Kevin O’Malley, SVP, publisher and chief revenue officer, says Elle is trying to give this offshoot more of a “luxe thrust,” and making a significant investment in paper is an important part of that.
“When you use a slightly oversized canvas and let the product be the hero on the page, it goes a long way,” says O’Malley. “It breathes a little more, from an aesthetic point of view, and increases that initial emotional connection with the product. For our girl, accessories are not only want-to-haves but often must-haves. That eye candy appeal is much more important.”