Let’s face it; the costs of producing a print magazine will continue to rise. Whether it’s the cost of paper, postage or human capital, publishers shouldn’t expect much relief moving forward. As bleak as that may seem, there are still ways to trim the fat and manage print profitably-without sacrificing quality or disenfranchising your audience.
Rising costs haven’t deterred Active Interest Media from keeping print at the core of its business. The company has over 40 print magazines, many of which have small enthusiast audiences. A model like AIM’s could be dangerous in today’s ecosystem, but the company is efficient and understands what its audience and advertisers want.
Pat Fox, executive vice president at AIM says the company has and will continue to implement new strategies that will not only sustain its print portfolio, but also grow the company.
"Print is not going away and it’s not going to be less important," she says. "But there are a lot of options where print is going to become something else. So we really want to make sure we are providing a quality product for our readers and we want to make sure our readers want the product."
Fox admits that much of what she and her team are doing is not radical, and in many instances they are utilizing tactics that other companies have already adopted. Still, the results speak for themselves.
AIM has continued to acquire new titles without shuttering or reducing them down to digital only. Most importantly, the company is retaining its audience. According to Fox, response rates have been stable and she says the company "hasn’t seen much fall off" in light of incremental changes.
WHAT’S THE SECRET?
For starters and, perhaps the most obvious place to start, is managing book size and budget. That includes cutting back pages, but Fox says the company has set a minimum that varies from title to title. Winnowing down the number of different trim sizes was also a step the company took.
Through acquisitions the company inherited several trim sizes. But now AIM is working on reducing the variation to a more universal and manageable number of options. Fox says another component in becoming more efficient was moving its production in house. The color correction process was something that AIM used to farm out, but now she says moving it in house has saved the company both time and money.
What’s more, by doing this, the proofing process becomes much more manageable. "My theory on all of this is that all of those proofs end up in the garbage at the end of the day," she says. "It’s another example that you can do without a lot of things you thought were necessary years ago." Another measure the company took to keep money out of the trash was paring down its circulations to more realistic sizes. Fox says that some of the titles had circulations that didn’t come close to its actual audience size, which in real terms only cost the company more because advertisers were looking for response rates rather than scale.
One of the final pieces to the puzzle is connecting with the right printer who understands your needs and who is willing to help you save money. The printer is also a great option to supply your paper needs, which will not only save money but will reduce inventory, waste and create a cash flow that can be redirected to other initiatives.
Most important here is that while all these methods helped AIM save money, quality wasn’t sacrificed. In fact, in many instances AIM has upped its paper quality significantly, which for advertisers and readers has been a welcomed change.