Publishers have been feeling the pinch since paper prices have spiked around 20 percent over the last year, and additional hikes are likely on the way—30 percent by the end of the year, by some estimates.
It may be more important now than ever to consider less expensive grades. But switching is "not a slam dunk," says Ernie Wohlfarth, director of magazine paper at Time Inc. A number of the more popular, less-expensive grades—like coated groundwood #5—are mostly on allocation, limiting supply to existing customers who cannot increase their quantities. It’s critical to do research up front, Wohlfarth says, because if publishers switch to a paper and it doesn’t work out, they’re likely to have trouble switching back.
Sticking to U.S.-manufactured paper is important in light of limited supply, according to Wohlfarth. “European paper mills are reluctant to ship to the U.S.,” he says. “They have to lower their prices to stay competitive because of the exchange rate, they lose money on the sale because of it.”
To deal with these mounting constraints, a number of publishers are getting creative. When Dwell redesigned in February, it reduced its width by 5/8 inches—from nine inches to 8 and 3/8 inches—savings approximately 7 percent on paper usage, according to production director Fran Fox. “We saved an additional 1 percent when we switched from an offshore 50.7# text stock to a domestic 50# stock.”
Going Green Can Save Money, Too
Kristine Kern, general manager of Mansueto Ventures, told FOLIO: that Inc. and Fast Company actually spent less money on paper last fall when they switched to a 100-percent recycled grade made by German paper company Leipa.
When Every Day with Rachael Ray switched to 85-percent recycled paper, the quality and hard costs of production stayed about the same but gave its image a “huge boon” among existing and prospective readers, the company says.
Bryant Wilson, national accounts manager at paper company Frank Parsons, says “readers will be much more forgiving if the quality is slightly off” if you switch to a lower-grade paper with triple chain-of-custody certifications from FSC, SFI and PEFC.
Also, less expensive groundwood papers use 2.2 tons less wood than the more expensive freesheet grades, according to Frank Locantore, director of the Magazine Paper Project for Co-Op