Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What Angry Birds Can Teach Publishers About Print

The creator of Angry Birds has been a book publisher for less than five months but already grasps a truth that eludes so many long-time publishers.

“It is actually not relevant whether we choose print or a digital channel – what matters is that there is someone out there who cares, who reads, listens, and communicates with us. That’s what publishing is all about, communication,” Peter Vesterbacka, CMO at Rovio Entertainment Ltd, told The Griffin, papermaker UPM-Kymmene’s corporate magazine. Ironically, that quotation is in the print and PDF versions of the magazine but not the web version.

Many panicked publishers seem to have adopted the mindset that the web is replacing print and then apps will replace the web.

No stupid arguments
But Finland-based Rovio and its Angry Birds game apps are so successful that it can actually make intelligent media choices instead of following the herd. You won’t hear any of the stupid print-versus-digital debates that dominate the discussions of more experienced publishers.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What Exactly Is Environmentally Preferable Paper?

Please see also the follow-up to this article, Green Groups Turn the Heat Down on National Geographic But Up on KFC.

To understand why selecting environmentally preferable paper is so challenging for publishers and other print buyers, consider these three recent news items:
  1. National Geographic Society worked with Hearst Enterprises and Verso Paper to help mostly small land owners achieve Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification for well over 1 million acres of Maine forests. 
  2. NGS conducted and published a thorough Life Cycle Assessment of National Geographic magazine’s carbon footprint, which Magazines Canada cited as an example for other publishers to follow.  
  3. Green America’s Better Paper Project has targeted NGS with its “Practice What You Print” protests because National Geographic magazine does not use recycled paper.
So amidst all of the Earth Day hype, Dead Tree Edition asks: So which is it, is National Geographic an environmental hero or an environmental villain? More importantly for those of us who buy paper: What exactly is “green” paper?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bill Would Address Federal and Postal Retirement Snafus

The longstanding problems of inaccurate pension estimates and slow pension payments for Postal Service and federal employees may finally be addressed by Congress.

Sen. Mark Warner
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has proposed an amendment to the postal-reform bill in the Senate that would require monthly reports on the accuracy and timeliness of pension estimates, the backlog of retirement applications, and the status of the retirement systems modernization project.

He would also set Jan. 31, 2013 as the date “by which all Federal payroll processing entities will electronically transmit all personnel data to the Office of Personnel Management.”

Warner’s proposal is one of 39 amendments to S.1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act, on which the Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday (April 24). Update: Warner's amendment was included in the version of S.1789 the Senate approved on April 25 and sent to the House.

It’s no coincidence that Warner wants to make his proposal part of a law intended to improve the U.S. Postal Service’s finances. Dead Tree Edition and others have long contended that low-ball pension estimates and the months-long waits for retirees to receive benefits are major hindrances to USPS’s cost-cutting efforts. (See, for example, How Does the Postal Service Discourage Early Retirement? Let Me Count the Ways.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Is There Life After Print? Yeah, Maybe at a Community College

My fellow printing geeks keep telling me that print isn’t dead, but it sure is looking pretty sick at times.

Here are some of the recent news items that make a “print guy” in the magazine industry feel like a marked man:

Many so-called leaders of the publishing industry have gone ga-ga over the Apple Newsstand, with some recent excitement about the top 100 sellers racking up sales of a whopping $70,000 every day. The top 100 U.S. and Canadian magazine titles on the real newsstand (the ink-on-paper one that's been left for dead) generate $70,000 in sales about once every 19 minutes.

And never mind that most of the Apple Newsstand money is coming from subscriptions, which in the print world are bringing in even more money than single-copy sales.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Weak Demand Will Mean Higher Paper Prices

Decreasing demand for publication papers in the U.S. is apparently having a counterintuitive result: higher prices. Or, at the least, higher minimum price levels during down markets.

There’s a logical explanation, and it doesn’t involve repealing the law of supply and demand. Nor does it mean that paper companies will be especially profitable in the future.

 “Newsprint will never fall below $500/tonne again, and will probably spend little time below $600/tone,” Verle Sutton wrote in the April issue of The Reel Time Report. “Average coated groundwood prices [for 40# #5] may drop below $800/ton in 2012, but will not get close to the 2009 low point of $730/ton. In fact, the current cyclical decline might be the last one in which coated groundwood pricing falls below $800/ton.”

Sutton is no optimist about the paper industry. He questions whether recently announced price increases for coated paper will stick and is especially bearish about the industry’s long-term prospects, as discussed in Why Coated Paper Prices Look Ready for a Fall.

The phenomenon Sutton describes – higher pricing “floors” for publication papers in future down markets -- is actually the result of the gloomy outlook for publication papers. It's somewhat akin to predictions that printed magazines will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, but as luxury items with much higher price points than today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Folio: Magazine Honors Donahoe As Innovator

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe was named today to Folio: magazine's "2012 Folio: 40" list of the magazine industry's "most innovative and distinguished professionals."

The Donahoe article, published online today and to appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine, cited Donahoe's "continued commitment to magazine media, while also remaining steadfast on the realities surrounding the challenges the USPS is combating."

Donahoe has reassured publishers that the U.S. Postal Service won't try to solve its financial problems by jacking up their postage rates, the article said. He's trying instead to cut costs, it added, by reducing the number of employees and postal facilities and by eliminating Saturday delivery.

FSS Machines Running Far Slower Than Planned

Flats Sequencing System machines continue to run much slower than their target speeds and aren't getting any faster. But they also aren't breaking down as often as they were last year, according to a Postal Service presentation.

From October through mid-February, the average number of pieces sequenced hourly ranged from 7,000 to 10,000 per week, well below the target of nearly 12,000. Throughputs so far this year have stabilized in the range of 8,000 to 9,000 per hour with a slightly downward trend, according to a presentation Megan J. Brennan, USPS's Chief Operation Officer, made at a recent Mailers Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) meeting.

But the "Mean Time Between Failure", a measure of how frequently the machines break down that was at about 10 for most of August and September, has been consistently above 13 recently. And the time it took to get a machine back online dropped by about one-third in a six-month period.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Here's Why We Avoid Four-Color Body Type

Thank you, The Wall Street Journal. You did me and a whole lot of other production managers a huge favor today with your printing foul-up.

Every couple of years, it seems, I have to talk an editor out of going along with a designer's proposal to jazz up a publication by getting rid of boring old black body type in articles. "Ooh, purple would look nice."

It was hard enough way back in the 20th Century to explain why printing 8-point type with four colors of ink would create an illegible mess. At least then most editors and designers had some clue about how printing worked.

Nowadays, you're likely to be dealing with someone who cut his teeth on the web and can't fathom why what he sees on his monitor can't look exactly the same when printed. ("I don't want four colors; I only want purple!" "Well, if the printer can't make the colors register exactly, get another printer.")

Now I have my evidence.