The Economics of Trim Size
Thanks to the recent postal rate increase, distribution is now more costly than ever for publishers. With about 30 percent of a magazine’s postage expense due to weight, how can you trim down and cut costs?
Optimally, you’ll want to reduce your magazine’s weight without reducing your content. You can look at trim size, paper stock, and page count-the variables that most affect per-copy weight and distribution expense.
For example, a publication with an 8 x 10 trim size, 96 pages on 40-pound paper stock and four pages of covers on 70-pound paper, trimming an extra eighth of an inch off both the length and the width makes each copy 2.5 percent lighter. If your magazine drops its folio by 16 pages to 80, each copy will be 15 percent lighter. Using lighter paper has even greater impact. If the publication switches to 36-pound stock, each copy will be more than 9 percent lighter.
But keep in mind that different printing presses are designed to operate using specific trim sizes. So, for example, if your book’s trim size is 8 x 10-7/8, printing it on a press designed to turn out 8-1/4 x 11-7/8 trim size publications may cost you more in the long run.
All these changes translate into more than 25 percent of weight savings. Saving that much weight can potentially save you seven cents on the dollar in postage costs.
You also should make sure that when preparing your page files, use the proper final trim size. While it is a fairly simple process for the printer to adjust a file to its proper size, it could lead to problems in the production run. Occasionally, you can end up with a bleed problem or type too close to trim. To avoid this, keep all of the type at least one-quarter inch from the final trim.
One magazine that has gone in the opposite direction is TV Guide. With its October 17, 2005 issue, the magazine went from digest-size-the size it had been since its launch in 1953-to a full-size, full-color publication.
The company said its research found that its readers were more interested in a magazine with fewer listings and more articles about television shows and their stars. The digest-sized publication had been losing money, but the company would not say how much.
As a result of the higher per-unit costs of producing a larger-format magazine, TV Guide had to eliminate 3 million sponsored copies, such as those distributed to hotels. The publication also eliminated 140 localized editions, choosing instead to go with a national edition with either an Eastern or Pacific time zone designation.
The magazine also lowered its cover price to $1.99 from $2.49, in an effort to boost newsstand sales, which are more profitable than subscription sales. The magazine also raised its lowest introductory price of 25 cents an issue for subscribers to 75 cents.
Though the move will initially cost it money, the company expects to reach profitability in about three years.