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5 Roles your print rep should play for YOU!

You may have noticed a lack of action from me over the past couple of weeks. My three year old son has been in and out of the hospital, but I am happy to say we have him home now, and we finally feel like we are out of the woods! This experience has caused me to take a good look at my priorities, not only at home, but also with my clients and prospects.

I sat down when I finally got back to the office the other day, and wrote out a list of how I can play more of a role for lovers of print. I asked myself what can I do to become better and help my clients become better, and here is what I came up with. These are 5 roles your print salesman should be performing for you!

1. Technology.Your print representative should be instructing you of new and creative ways to attract and build loyalty with your advertisers and readers alike. In today’s market, QR Codes, Augmented Reality, Digital Magazine. PURL’s, etc… aren’t right for everyone, but there is something right for anyone. Your sales rep should have a vast knowledge of your company, and be your consultant with new technology to help instruct and help increase your ability to not only survive, but grow as well! Also, there many creative avenues to offer other than technology such as gatefolds, tipping on an ad piece, RPN notes, and the like!

2. Quality Control. This is key in offering you a consistently quality piece. Your advertisers, members, and readers all deserve the highest quality product, after all, you are paying for it! Now I am not saying your print rep needs to stand over the press men to ensure there are no errors, most press men have great talent and an eye for when inks may need be adjusted. Also, with the advances in technology, presses have become very automated. However, they should be reviewing quality control pulls, communicating with you if there is any problems with your PDF files ie low DPI or too small of fonts etc.. Honesty and integrity are key, no one is mistake free 100% of the time, but how they communicate and take responsibility for the mistakes are essential to your business.

3. Cost Savers. Often times you can see a significant savings in some very small changes. With an increasing paper market, there may be an equivalent paper stock for far less cost. You could look at different cover coatings, going from UV to Aqueous typically saves cost. Often times there are sweet spots on how many pages in a form a printer is most economical in, changing your page count to fit this is much more economical.

4. Postal Rep. You thought I forgot about this didn’t you? OK, it could have fit into number three’s category, but I think we all know this deserves its own category! With ever changing postal regulations, rate changes, and the like, your print rep should be instructing you on changes not only now, but what also might be coming in the future. USPS regulations affect everyone, and when something comes along like the proposed rate increase (thank goodness it failed), the droop test, and much more your representative should be showing you how it will affect you, and what is most economical way to come into compliance should you need to. Just because the postal hikes didn’t pass doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be something else on the horizon, I know I have my ear to the ground!

5. Support. Yes, this is a different kind of support that I am speaking of than what I have outlined above. I pride myself on not being a hit and run type of representative. What do I mean? After the sale you no longer see your sales rep, they are like a ghost….hear their footsteps but never their voice! Building personal relationships allows for open and clear communication, also it just makes for a more fun way of doing business. It is nice to know that they are not only working for you, but also with you. Some say family fights more than friends, but to that I say blood is thicker than water!

Evaluate your relationship, these are only some of the things that your print rep should be doing for you. Take advantage of our knowledge, we want to assist you and see print survive! Without you, there is no us, and without us, you are not the best you.

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October 21, 2010 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Mailing, Publishing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tabs….are you sick of being attacked yet??

Ok, I am going to let a skeleton out of the closet this morning,…. I have a special place in my heart for tabloid sized publications! So much so, that I tried to start up a group on LinkedIn dedicated to tab sized publishers.

Before I get started, to those of you scratching your head and asking yourself “What’s a tabloid sized publication?” or, “Aren’t tabloids those magazines that spread gossip?” Come on man! Let’s start a new name for the publications that are dedicated to the gossip of the celebrity life to something like “grocery aisle” or you fill in the blank, ANYTHING but tabloids. Tabloid sized publications are those publications that are over the trim size of 9x 10 7/8. They are the ones that are usually in the back of the shelves at book stores and news stands because they are too big to put anywhere else (attack #1). Tabs aren’t extinct yet, but face many more issues than the rest of the publishing industry.

The droop test imposed by the USPS forced many tab sized publishers to increase the weight of their paper stock or add on a heavy cover so that they will pass the droop test (attack #2). By increasing the weight of their paper stocks, they have to pay more in mailing costs due to the heavier weight, however this is still probably less than what the penalties would have been if they failed the droop test (attack #3). By increasing their paper weight, their costs in paper went up (attack #4) and mind you this entire year we have seen nothing but increases in cost from the paper mills. Finally, co-pal pools are irregular at best, and offer 10% of the savings that co-mail does (attack #5).

With all that being said, it is no wonder why so many tabloid sized publishers are scrambling to go down in size in effort to reduce their costs in paper and mailing, because of this the tab market has been greatly reduced. But today tabs, I am going to be your Tony Robbins, I am here to tell you that you are beautiful, unique, and I am here to help support you in the hurdles you jump over every day!  

So here are some tips for you and words of encouragement:

  • The majority of tabs still print on uncoated paper stocks, which I actually dig! But here is a tip to increase the quality of your publication and attract more advertisers, heatset the 4-color, and if you dont have 4-color….add it in! Going from K-only to 4-color isn’t a big increase in costs at all. Furthermore, by seeking out a heatset printer over a coldset printer gives you higher quality imagery that I am confident your advertisers and readers will enjoy alike.
  • If you are saying “Noah, you say you have love for the tabs, show me how to reduce some costs will ya!?” then this one is for you. Try out the trim size of 10.5×12. What’s so special about this trim size? At this trim size, instead of printing in 8 and 16 page forms, we can actually print in 12 and 24 page forms….meaning more pages printed at once = reduction in costs on press. I am not done yet, when your at this trim size, quarter fold it, tab it shut, and now you qualify for letter rates which are a much discounted mailing rate given by the USPS. You will save quite a bit of money in mailing costs. One thing to note is that you do need to be within the allowed thickness limits of what the USPS allows to qualify as a letter (your printer can tell you).
  • Speak to your printer about taking advantage of drop shipping into heavy concentrated mailing areas to reduce costs and decrease delivery times.
  • Lastly, speak to your news stand distributor to find out where you are being placed in book stores and the like. Visibility is the key, and you don’t want to be in the back of everyone else. Maybe you can negotiate being placed at the foot of the newsstand, or something that will offer you more visibility to the consumers.

Tabs, whether you are on coated or uncoated paper, I got love for ya and want to see you survive. You offer unique advertising opportunities and a unique reading experience. I love that regardless what the world is throwing at you, you are throwing it right back at them!

There is just something about those big beautiful tabs that keeps catching my eye…….

October 9, 2010 Posted by | Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What does your digital magazine do for you?

There are many digital magazine providers in the market, so how do you choose one that is right for you? First, you should assess what your goals are for a digital reproduction of your printed publication. Are you looking to replace your printed product at some point in the future? Maybe you are wanting to supplement your printed product…for example, some readers and advertisers are demanding it, but you don’t see the printed publication going away? Or maybe it’s to eliminate your foreign mailing? We all know how expensive that is!  Are you just giving it a try to see what all the hype is about, or attract a new market segment? So you asked yourself these questions, and you have your goals in mind, now you are ready to move forward!

What now? You research digital magazine providers on Google, up comes 20 different digital magazine providers and you have no idea where to start. No, I am not going to mention any digital magazine providers in this blog, because this is about picking the right one for you, not me endorsing what I think is best.

 Let us say you are looking at replacing your printed product with a digital reproduction at some point in the future. Are you thinking you want to pick a digital magazine that is what I call a “page flipper” ?(example:… the reader clicks on the corner of the page and it flips, that’s it…which by the way are the most abundant type of digital magazine out there) Probably not, why? Because if you are planning on transitioning to a digital magazine only, wouldn’t you want your brand to transition from your printed piece to your digital piece? How are you planning on doing that with a regular page flipper? The simple answer is that you can’t, and if you believe you can you are probably going out of business. Instead, my suggestion would be to pick a provider that offers rich media (videos) that you can add into the digital reproduction, offers Google Analytics (so you can track your readership and clicks on the URL’s within the digitial magazine), embedded links (so readers can be taken right to your advertisers websites), archivability (so that readers can still read past issues), and audio (maybe an advertiser wants to speak right to the reader), these are only some of the many qualities that you would want to look for. Sure, it’s going to cost you more than a page flipper, but if this is now becoming your brand, I suggest you invest in yourself!

Now let’s say you are only looking to supplement your printed publication with a digital magazine. If you see the value in a more interactive version of the digital product, by all means go for it! However, if you think the value isn’t behind the increase in cost, a page flipper might just be what the doctor ordered! These days, many page flipper providers offer embedded links, my advice is to at least make sure you have this. If you are looking at cutting your foreign mail with a digital magazine, make sure your provider offers translation tools, your foreign readership just might grow!

What I look for in a digital provider is someone that can offer both options. A company that has the best of both worlds, is able to help with your ipad app needs (if this is a direction you are looking at), someone that can help you grow and consult you. These are the type of providers I look for.

I am a true believer that digital magazines are here to stay, but I also don’t see them taking over the printed industry like so many are forecasting. Should you be supplementing your printed publication with a digital magazine? I believe so. However, if you are worried about giving away your content for free, rest assured that many providers offer a “teaser” option where the reader can only read the first few pages, if they want to read more they have to subscribe. Should your goal be to stop printing? My answer is no, this would be a big mistake. Print still has value, from being beautiful (a work of art), having credibility, and still offering advertisers the highest amount of action per ad.

So from a printer’s stand point, jump into a digital magazine if you think it will help you with your goals. I certainly think it will help, but my suggestion is to supplement not evict a printed piece. Call me crazy but I actually think more readers will subscribe to your printed piece if you do!

 So,Chicken Little, the sky isn’t falling, it’s just a digital magazine.

PS….If your printer is offering you the opposite advice, you may want to ask whose interest they have in mind.

October 6, 2010 Posted by | Digital Magazine, Publishing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We as mailers need a viable and effective postal service.

The exigent postal rate increase proposed back in July was denied by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on September 30. The news is a great relief to all mailers, especially periodical and catalog mailers. The proposed rate increase had many mailers scrambling to figure out how to absorb the latest financial burden in a sluggish economy.

 The USPS rate increases over the last three years were tied to the Consumer Price Index. This was one result of Postal Reform Act passed at the end of 2006. Since the CPI has only increased 0.6%, the USPS requested an exigent rate increase to help offset a looming financial crisis. The USPS is projecting nearly $240 billion in losses over the next decade. The denial is a serious blow to the USPS financial plan.

 The USPS has proposed a number of measures to meet the projected losses. Internal cost cutting focused on reducing the number of employees, and putting that number more in line with declining mail volume. Unfortunately, mail volume declined much quicker than they could reduce the workforce. USPS was able to cut $6 billion in costs, but it didn’t make up for the $7.7 billion in losses. The USPS is also looking to consolidate facilities, go to a 5 day a week delivery schedule, relief from (and refund of?) the overpayment to the employee pension plan and no longer be required to prefund employee heath benefits. The latter two require congressional approval and the first has been opposed by individual congress people not wanting to lose offices in their district. The USPS will now face a steeper uphill battle counteracting the proposed shortfall.

 Many believe (which apparently includes the PRC) that the USPS financial circumstances were at least partially of their own making. The PRC cited this saying they believed these financial difficulties would have happened regardless of the economy. The PRC did not feel the USPS met the criteria for an exigent increase. All of the following conditions must be met to approve an exigent increase request:

      1. Due to either extraordinary or exceptional circumstances;

      2. Reasonable, equitable, and necessary under best  practices of honest, efficient, and economical management; and,

      3. Necessary to maintain and continue the development of postal services of the kind and quality adapted to the needs of the United States. 

  New and more rigid regulations combined with the internet and the economic downturn helped to drive mail volume down. The new rate structure for periodicals three years ago (which added things like container charges), the huge increase in rates for standard flats a few years ago and more recently the change in preparation requirements for letter sized booklet mailers (coming soon for self mailers), the stricter droop test (poorly timed with many publications a fraction of the size they were years ago) have all combined to make mailing less attractive for mailers. Those that depend on mailing are forced to reduce the quantity or charge customers more to meet the increased processing costs.

  The latest proposal would have heaped a 5% increase on catalog mailers, an 8% increase on periodicals and a 23% increase on standard parcel mailers. This would have resulted in more job losses and possibly put some mailers out of business. The poor timing of this increase was sure to have had a serious if not disastrous effect on businesses.

 Hopefully this will force the USPS (and Congress) to take a hard look at their operations. The likely result will be conditions that will adversely affect the mailer and the USPS. Despite how we feel about USPS handling of these circumstances, we as mailers need a viable and effective postal service. 

-Guest Post by Bill Carter, Distribution Manager at J.B. Kenehan

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Mailing, Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment