As a publisher, you spend a lot of time looking for ways to cut costs during the production process. Naturally, the first place you look is to your printer. Can they offer reduced paper costs? Can they make their processes more efficient?
While printers realize that this is the first place a publisher will look to cut costs, they note that there are other places – some not so obvious – that you should look to help squeeze more out of your dollars.
Keep Your Lists (and Files) Clean
There are a number of steps that can be taken to help reduce costs. One that is often overlooked, printers say, involves your comp list. Purge your comp list to get rid of the "dead wood." Get your salespeople to take a serious look at the names on their comp lists and find out if those people still work for the company the magazine is mailed to, if they still want to receive the publication and if they even read the publication anymore. If not, purge them from the list.
In a similar vein, take a look at your mailing list. This list too should be scrubbed for incorrect addresses. Printers note that mailing lists are basically a circulation department responsibility, whereas comp lists are a "counter culture list developed by salespeople." Outdated names and address costs you money, and every mailing list has them.
You can invest in database software that will help in verifying addresses, or you can subscribe to one or more of the address hygiene services available such as the National Change of Address (NCOA) service or the Address Change Service (ACS).
"Make sure you have good addresses," says Joyce McGarvey, corporate distribution director of Crain Communications. "Cleanse your addresses so that you can barcode everything and have the finest presort that you can do."
Then there’s the actual production of the magazine. Printers suggest that if you haven’t already done so, invest in pre-flighting technology. Printers like PDF files better than application files. Send your printer PDFs and you undoubtedly will receive a discount for doing so. Also look into sending your files to the printer by FTP, rather than mailing a bunch of discs.
Once your magazine is on press, there’s little margin for error. A mistake here will directly affect your budget.
Printers suggest publishers consider doing their overruns digitally, rather than on press. One printer noted that one of its clients does a monthly short-run of 30,000 copies and an overrun of 2,000 copies for a four-page form. To replate the press for that small amount would be very expensive for the publisher, the printer notes.
Another often overlooked area is inserts. Publishers should consider letting the printer print inserts to cut down on freight costs. Find out what types of inserts your printer produces and if they run multiple inserts at the same time. This could amount to a significant costs savings.
Publishers also should consider their mailing labels. Using ink jet directly on the cover, rather than printed gummed labels can save a few bucks.
Since paper is your printer’s business, it pays to let them choose. Purchase your printer’s "house paper" and buy it in small quantities. Fancy papers cost a lot and often times don’t add anything to your magazine.
You also can save money by telling your printer which grade of paper you prefer, rather than a by specifying a brand name. Printers make deals with paper mills based on quantity of paper needed, not on specific brand names.
And consider switching to a supercalendered grade of paper. According to the SC Council, an international supercalendered paper industry association, publishers can save up to 20 percent compared to coated groundwood grades. There’s also a savings in distribution costs because of the lighter weights of supercalendered paper.
Also, let your printer do a comparative pre-sort check. They note that each supplier tweaks their software differently. You can save some money by letting your printer handle this task, rather than having to ship files back and forth yourself.
And speaking of paper, publishers note a good way to cut costs is to reduce trim size. Tom Martin, vice president of manufacturing at Cygnus Business Media, suggests reevaluating the grades of paper you use and to cut trim size.
"We’re changing a lot of grades, lowering rates, looking at new suppliers with better rate structures," he says. "We’ve done co-palletization, cut trim sizes, cut paper weights and cut wasted copies. You can save two to three percent on paper and postage if you move from a standard magazine size of 8 3/8 down to 7 7/8."
Martin estimates this will enable Cygnus to save about a cent-and-a-half on a million copies of its magazines, or nearly $150,000.
At the Distribution Stage
Printers also say that piggybacking onto their distribution system can save publishers a bundle. For example, if your printer has a truck making a run to New York City each Thursday, consider putting your New York-bound issues on the truck too, even if you publish on Tuesday. However, not all printers are set up to offer this service.
Cygnus implement a co-mailing strategy last summer. The company expects to save three to five percent-or as much as 2 cents per copy-on mailing costs. Printers note that national publications can save between six and 14 percent by utilizing co-mailing services.
Also consider using non-postal delivery options such as FedEx and UPS. Many printers offer a co-op service where you can mail using their shipping account.
And speaking of the postal service, printers suggest you audit your postal trust account annually.