6 Reasons Entertainment Weekly's Move to Heavier Paper Will Probably Pay Off
In 2009, a struggling Newsweek upgraded its paper stock at an estimated cost of $3 million in a desperate attempt to turn its print business around. It didn't work.
EW's publisher indicated the cost of the EW paper upgrade was in "seven figures," though a Dead Tree Edition analysis ballparks an $800,000 annual hit to the paper, postage, and freight budgets.
So is Entertainment Weekly crazy to try the same trick this year as Newsweek, albeit on a smaller scale? I think not. This situation is different, and the times have changed.
Here are six reasons EW's recently announced paper change may be a smart move:
1. Advertisers: EW "alienated some advertisers," especially in the beauty category, when it moved to unusually light 29# LWC (lightweight-coated) paper a few years ago, a source told the New York Post. Now it is transitioning to 34# paper, which is about 17% heavier.
Sources say Time Inc. worked with some paper suppliers to create a 29# that was relatively bulky and had little "showthrough," but the tradeoff has been low gloss that doesn't give some ads and photos the "pop" that advertisers and designers are looking for. Despite the savings from the light paper, EW's sister title People switched away from the 29# sheet two years ago.
If the move brings an average of just one more ad page into each issue, that alone should cover the cost of the better paper. And having a more substantial, better looking magazine should spill over into newsstand sales, renewal rates, and improved brand perception.
2. The changing role of magazines: The old business model for major consumer magazines was to grab as many eyeballs as possible, even at money-losing subscription rates, to keep ad rates as high as possible. But advertisers no longer subsidize print the way they once did. (EW's ad pages are supposedly down about 14% this year.) They have more efficient ways to find masses of people. Print is now a vehicle for reaching valuable target audiences with more memorable and engaging messages than digital media typically can deliver.