Alex Brown

Alex Brown
The Modern Printer’s Evolution

While putting ink on paper remains their primary business, most printers are ready to expand—or have already expanded—the definition of their services.

How to Evaluate 
Distribution Savings

If you're in the midst of negotiating a printing contract, you've already noticed that printers increasingly distinguish themselves by their distribution offerings, not their printing technologies. Because most printing plants today have the ability to put ink on paper at a high level of quality, we tend to shrink manufacturing down to a price comparison. For the most part, distribution also is merely price, but you should consider a few service nuances. But first, let's look at costs.

13 Ways to Fight the Ad Downturn

With ad pages projected to decline in 2009, publishers are looking for every possible advantage to draw advertisers to printed magazines. Sure, the stampede continues toward screens and away from pages, but the magazine has some compelling properties as an effective marketing medium. Here, from the manufacturing side, are some ideas to present to your ad sales team.

7 Tips for Analyzing Printing Prices

When comparing printing bids, it’s not enough to find out which price is lowest. Because your specifications will vary from issue to issue and because the price of raw materials will rise or fall outside your printing contract, you need to know why one bid differs from another. Here are some calculations that will help you understand the pricing philosophy of a printer. Use them to launch your negotiation, so the printer’s prices can better fit your publication’s printing requirements.

Facing Today’s Manufacturing Woes

You are not alone. Publishers are being buffeted by cost increases on all fronts, and while there are no magic wands to wave, we can gather round to share our sorrows and consider a few basic cost-control tactics. The latest blow is a 10-percent to 12-percent increase in ink prices announced by ink suppliers. Printers will differ in their implementation of this, but if yours is delivering bad news in the form of higher prices, you can accept it as a true reflection of the market. The costs of raw materials and freight have indeed affected the selling price of ink. Your printer

Master Manufacturer: The Death of an Editor?

There have been a lot of funerals for printed magazines lately, but I keep waiting for a eulogy that describes what exactly is being buried. There are three elements that are showing signs of mortality: the physical printed magazine, the role of editor as mediator, and the core magazine business model. The business model will have to wait for a future column, but now let’s look at the prognosis for the first two. On which grave should we leave the flowers? The Physical Object For the reading experience itself, no one prefers a screen to a magazine. What pulls us away from a printed

Weathering a Stormy Paper Market Forecast

There’s no sugarcoating it: The paper market is bleak for buyers. The problems lie in both price and availability, and the forecast for 2008 has almost no bright spots. So, several questions have emerged: How did we get here? What can you do to cope with this new reality? What trends may affect paper purchasing this year and beyond? First, it’s easy to be puzzled by how the paper market changed so abruptly and intensely. Paper buyers have seen the dark clouds massing over the mills for years, but little has come of it. Why is it actually raining now? In the

Budget Forecasting Secrets

One of the joys of Excel is that there are so many ways to skin your calculation cat. You can assemble a budget in any way you like because the ultimate math involved is very simple: Multiply the price times the number of times you buy something, then sum everything. It may even seem unnecessary to layer a little complexity into a budget worksheet, but there are some good reasons to elevate your Excel skills. The hallmark of a great budget spreadsheet is that it contains a little intelligence of its own: the ability to handle a wide range of details more consistently than

Symbiosis or ‘Death Spiral’?

Printers often demonstrate a genuine interest in the financial well-being of publishers. They prove this every time they hold or cut prices when a postal or paper increase threatens their customers’ profitability. Now, this is not entirely a selfless act on their part. Healthy publishers are essential to the print industry, and after all, we are all in this together. Or are we? It’s common to consider the printer-publisher bond as one of mutual dependence and to note the win-win aspects of what can be called a symbiotic relationship. Each party wants the other to grow and prosper. But what happens to a symbiotic relationship

Is Your Printing Contract Working Against You?

The first installment of this series, “Print Contract Negotiation In-Depth” (in the March issue of Publishing Executive and online in the “manufacturing” community on, focused on some of the essential elements of a printing contract. This installment will address whether or not your contract is actually working for you or against you. What purpose does it serve? A publisher makes a commitment in time, and a printer makes a commitment in price. It’s critical to determine if those commitments balance. In other words, is a publisher’s willingness to stay out of the market and stick with one printer equivalent in value to a

Print Contract Negotiation In-Depth

Comedian Steven Wright asks a volunteer from the audience to assist in a juggling routine, and the novice messes up one of the tosses. Wright says, “No, no. It’s my fault. I picked her.” This is worth remembering when negotiating a printing contract—you did, after all, pick your printer. But unlike in comedy, mistakes your printer makes aren’t so funny. Contract negotiations can define your relationship, so you want to conduct them wisely. First, you need to negotiate the right to negotiate. There is a tendency for printer or publisher to claim that difficulties will never arise, as if citing the possibility

Over-Spending on Your Imposition?

Every issue of a magazine, you have to prove your mettle by seeking the most economical imposition. For some publishers, manufacturing costs put constraints on the configurations ad and edit can create, but at most companies the production department has to print what it has been handed. And, in all fairness, offering flexibility to ad sales is worth some inefficiencies on press. The smarter you are about the costs of imposing the book, the better you can steer the publisher toward the best balance of cost and sales opportunity. There are three influences on the ultimate economy of your imposition decisions: the number of

Thinking Ink: 4 Ways To Cut Costs

Controlling the cost of ink might seem like hoping to change the weather. After all, your printer makes the purchasing decision, and the ink manufacturers manage the rising costs in petroleum, pigments and chemicals. As an end user, you’re at the end of the chain, but there are four ways to tackle this cost element. First, consider the gap between the price to the printer and the price to you. The impact of the markup is negotiable at contract time, even when renewing. Because printers have latitude in this area, it’s always worth challenging ink prices for concessions. To a printer, markups are found money,