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Cutting Costs without Cutting Quality - 9/8/2010 -

By Joy English


With costs increasing—and in many cases, budgets tightening—finding ways to cut expenses without sacrificing quality is on the minds of most in the publishing industry. How do you deliver a high-quality print product when your bottom line is slipping closer to the red?


Three content leaders—Julie McLaughlin, publisher, Insulation Outlook, National Insulation Association; Andy Moore, director of sales, Nxtbook Media; and Julie Shoop, director of publications/editor, TRIAL magazine, American Association of Justice—recently shared their advice on saving pennies and maintaining quality at the Association Media & Publishing August 10th Lunch & Learn (sponsored by Royle Printing) titled, "How to Cut Costs Without Cutting Quality, Part 2: Getting More for Less.” Here are the highlights:


1.     Look at all your options. All three content leaders encouraged attendees to explore all their options, from paper stock and ink to trim size, print signatures, and digital components. There may be a paper stock that feels the same as your current stock but is less expensive. Moore also noted that you can make just about anything you print into a digital format.


McLaughlin and Shoop emphasized the importance of cost-effective print signatures. Saving an article for another issue so that your page count is more cost effective could save you a lot.


2.     Give them what they want (even if they don’t know it). Give your advertisers options. You may not know that they desire a particular feature; they may not even realize they want it. But if you give them the choices, they may bite. For example, McLaughlin said that her association has the ability to run a scratch-and-sniff feature in the magazine. She’s not sure anyone in insulation advertising would want it, but she’s making it available to them anyway.

McLaughlin also noted that if one advertiser asks her about a particular option, she then makes that available to all advertisers. "It’s up to your advertisers to use the options you present,” she stated. "But if you find ways for them to spend the money, they will spend it.”


3.     Know your readers. McLaughlin and Shoop said that they talk to their readers and learn what their members want and don’t want. This shapes the decisions they make, particularly regarding digital media options.


For instance, Shoop’s readers were already receiving emails from the association, and she was able to transition some material to an e-newsletter format. But her readers also wanted to continue receiving the flagship publication in print. By transitioning a secondary publication to an online format, she was able to save money and maintain the primary print publication.


4.     Make the tough decisions. "Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to help your group survive,” Shoop noted. For example, she eliminated nine editorial/production positions and trimmed pages by 48 percent. This allowed her to cut expenses 40 percent. It also forced her and her group to be creative. Interestingly enough, Shoop found that the changes—while tough in many aspects—actually resulted in increased quality and efficiencies.


5.     Don’t be afraid of change. Social media, digital tools, software upgrades, new processes—all of these spell change, and change can be scary. But don’t be afraid to try new things. Moore noted that association publishers can enhance a digital edition easily and cost effectively with videos, audio, and images—drawing both advertisers and readers to the digital component.


McLaughlin added that she and her staff moved to a Web-based proofing process, which now saves $3,000 an issue. They also transitioned from Quark to InDesign. By changing the process, they grew more efficient. The association did spend money upfront for the necessary software and computer upgrades, but the cost savings over the long haul have made a significant impact.


No matter the size of your publication or staff, you can cut costs without sacrificing quality. By exploring your options, being creative, and having confidence to make tough decisions, you can navigate economically turbulent waters and keep your members and advertisers happy with a quality product.


Joy English (Twitter: @AAPSComms) is managing editor of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists’ AAPS Newsmagazine and Careers magazine.


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