Asking the Right Questions About Paper Could Save You Thousands

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By Doug Keller


Most people are probably not breaking out Champagne or throwing a parade when their paper arrives at the loading dock. In fact, in virtually all aspects of paper procurement, there usually isn’t much fanfare.


Despite the vital role it plays, paper is not a glamorous part of the publication industry. Why do we, as an industry, seem so dismissive of paper? It is key to the oft-cited No. 1 member benefit — a print magazine — but did you know that paper can represent as much as 40 percent of the cost of a printed piece?


So maybe the process of sourcing paper deserves a little more attention. In general, there are four variables that a publisher can examine to determine whether they are getting the right paper and saving money.

Brightness. Are you getting a high-bright sheet when a less expensive sheet with a slightly lower brightness will suffice for your publication? The difference in cost for a 76 bright vs. an 80 bright can be as much as $0.07 per pound. For a bi-monthly, 50-page publication on a 50# stock, that amounts to a savings of $10,000 annually!

Basis weight. Many publishers are going to a higher basis weight to beef up their publications. But as you are aware, you pay for paper by the pound. A higher basis weight means more pounds and a higher cost. There are many high-bulk sheets on the market that allow you to get the bulk, but you don’t pay for the extra pounds. An SCA+ sheet, for example, is very close in look and feel to a coated #5, but for the same bulk, same caliper, you would generally use a sheet that is 5 pounds lighter. A 35# SCA bulks like a 40# #5 coated. So for a bi-monthly, 50-page publication, replacing 40# coated stock with 35# SCA allows you to maintain the bulk of your publication, lower the mailing cost, and pay $8,000 less annually for your paper.

Size. Most standard mill-size 33-inch and 35-inch rolls are promoted by the paper industry to standardize their product. The size of your publication may require only a 32-inch roll instead of a 33-inch roll. That size can easily be made by paper converters and distributors. Doing so for a bi-monthly 50-page publication on a 50# stock could save as much as $2,000 a year

Branded or generic. Many branded sheets are required for higher-end publications. Many art directors, some advertisers, and many printers feel more comfortable with the assurances provided by a branded sheet. This makes sense, but at what cost? If your publication does not require a branded sheet, a generic sheet can usually be purchased for $0.04-0.05 less per pound on average. The quality may not always be exactly the same, but if you can live with pretty close, then generic may be something to consider, especially since doing so could save as much as $7,000 a year on a 50-page, bi-monthly publication.


The bottom line (and your bottom line) comes down to communicating with your printer and paper vendor and researching all available options. Only a couple of phone calls could save you 15 percent to 30 percent on your paper, or 6-12 percent of your overall cost.


What could your organization do with that extra money?


Doug Keller is the territory sales manager northeast for Roosevelt Paper Company and member of AM&P’s content creation committee.