6 Reasons Entertainment Weekly's Move to Heavier Paper Will Probably Pay Off
EW might become more profitable by trimming its 1.725-million ratebase so that it can shed some unprofitable circulation. If so, the publisher should invest in upgrading the product in order to counterbalance the loss of circulation in the eyes of the advertising community. Reducing ratebase would be part of a repositioning to higher quality rather than a mere cost-cutting move.
3. The Postal Service: Although Periodicals postal rates on average have increased nearly every year, the per-pound charges have actually decreased, especially this year. Dead Tree Edition estimates that EW now pays less than 16 cents per pound of Periodicals postage, versus more than 20 cents for Newsweek back in 2009.
4. The West Coast: EW probably prints at least 20% of its U.S. copies on the West Coast. My fellow paper geeks say the closest mill that makes 29# LWC is in Minnesota, requiring expensive transport across the Rockies, while one in nearby British Columbia makes lots of 34#. By switching to a mill with lower transport costs, EW might be able to negotiate a 34# price that would virtually eliminate the cost of upgrading its West Coast copies.
5. The Flyover: A favorite trick of big consumer magazines, especially the Time weeklies, is using good paper for the newsstand and in mailed copies going to big ad markets like New York and LA, then putting the cheap stuff into subscribers copies destined for the hinterlands. That would probably limit the cost of the paper upgrade to low six figures, though it might also undercut efforts to win back advertisers and to project a higher-quality image.
6. Advances in paper-making technology: The heavier paper may not be costing EW a dime. My $800,000 estimate assumes that the 34# is just a heavier version of the 29# LWC that EW had been using. But some paper experts point out that the title may actually be switching to SCA++, a high-grade "supercalendered" paper that typically costs 5% to 8% less than equivalent LWC.