Weather the Storm: Get Smart About Paper

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By Doug Keller


It’s no secret the paper market is experiencing extreme volatility, with pricing and availability affecting publishers and printers alike. With no immediate relief in sight, everyone is searching for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. After all, paper can represent up to 50 percent of the cost to print an association magazine.

Industry experts attribute the unprecedented paper price increases to numerous factors: mill closures, mills converting machinery to produce more packaging-grade material instead of printing paper, less foreign paper entering the country, and inflation. Some call it a perfect storm of market conditions that have sent prices sky-rocketing.


One avenue many publishers use to find relief is to buy their paper direct, instead of having their printer supply it. Buying direct from a distributor or broker can often provide savings of 10-25 percent on paper. As an example, if a distributor saves you 10 cents per pound, and you use 40,000 pounds (about a truckload) per month, your annual savings would be $48,000.


Other areas to consider to find relief in paper costs include:

Brightness. Are you getting a high-bright sheet when a less expensive sheet with slightly lower brightness would 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 50# stock, that amounts to a savings of $10,000 annually.

Basis weight. There are many high-bulk sheets on the market that allow you to get the bulk, but not 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 save $8,000 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. 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 50# stock could save as much as $2,000 a year.

Branded or generic. 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, 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.


In this current economic climate, who cannot afford a few minutes to discuss such a large potential reduction in operating costs? With only a couple phone calls, you can find significant savings without sacrificing the quality your members expect and deserve.


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