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Newsletters, Part 2:
Keeping Publication Costs Under Control

by Tod Snodgrass

Editor's Note: The first part of this series appeared the May 2000 issue.

It is easy to get carried away and spend a bundle of money on newsletters. To help contain the high costs often associated with this type of printed product, there are several expense reduction concepts you can employ.

Most newsletters are designed to deliver the same basic look each month. The contents may change (each quarter, month, etc.) but the design usually remains about the same - and for good reason: It establishes a certain look that your client/customers hopefully will recognize and anticipate receiving on a regular basis.

Current situation: Let's assume that your monthly newsletter has been up and running for a year or two. It is successful. You plan on continuing with it for at least another year or two.

You are buying 60,000 newsletters per year. Overall size: 11 x 17 inches. You three-fold them to fit into a #10 envelope. Printed two sides, in two colors, the "constant" copy (borders, headline boxes, logos, return address, etc.) is printed in dark blue. Black ink is used to print the "variable" (editorial) text copy, which of course changes each month.

Every 30 days, you take copy to your printing vendor and they print up say, 5,000 newsletters. By the end of the year, you have printed and mailed 12 separate orders = 60,000 2 color newsletters (5M x 12).

Masters & Shells

An interesting and positive byproduct of distributing a consistent look (with your newsletter) is that you can use it to your (economic) advantage when it comes time to get the newsletters printed. Printing "master" runs of newsletter "shells" is one way to keep newsletter costs under control. Here is how "shells" can work for you: Instead of printing the "constant" copy 12 times during the year, you instead print up a one year supply of "shells" in January, that lasts all the way to December.

Known as a "master" printing run, the 60,000 blue-ink-only "shells" are stored on the shelf, in their unfolded size. Then, month by month, 5,000 "shells" are imprinted (in the second color, in this case black ink) with the "variable" editorial or other copy that was developed during the past 30 days.

The "master" method only works if copy on the "shells" does not change during the timeframe in question (in this case, one full year). Also, the 60,000 "shells" have to be paid for before even one complete newsletter has been printed, much less mailed.

However, the financial rewards that stem from adopting this unique printing method can be substantial, for two reasons.

First, it is less expensive to print 60,000 one-color "masters" all at once compared to printing 5,000 newsletter x 12 separate times. Second, the 60,000 "shells" can be produced even less expensively on a large press. This offers the opportunity for even greater overall cost savings.

Done the right way, adopting the "master/shell" approach to printing can reduce overall costs by 20%-40% or more, depending on what is involved.

NOTE: The "shell" approach to printing can be applied equally well to other printed items such as sales sheets, price lists, literature, 4 color brochures, bulletins, memos, etc.

Additional Cost Cutting Ideas

Start off with a quarterly (not a monthly) publication. Carefully gauge the popularity of your published product before increasing its frequency.

Print a modest number of total pages at the outset. For example, start out with say, 2 pages: (two sides of an 8.5 x 11). If your newsletter is well received by the readers (and you have sufficient, appropriate editorial material to fill it on a regular basis), then you may want to selectively expand it to 4 pages (2 sides of an 11 x 17), then to 8 pages, etc.

Use multiple ink colors sparingly. While there are plenty of four-color-process publications in circulation, we don't advise that yours be one of them, at least not at the outset. Four-color printing (featuring full color photos of people, places and things, for example) may look impressive, but be careful that glitz doesn't get in the way of good content.

Not only is 4-color printing potentially cost prohibitive to many firms, the idea of a newsletter is (usually) to deliver information, i.e. via the written word, not overwhelm the reader with fancy photos of the latest widget produced in your newest factory. For most organizations, two-color printing usually proves to be more than adequate, at least for the first few issues (of your newsletter).

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About the Author:

This article was created and is copyrighted by Business Printing International. Reprinted with permission.

You can get hold of them at:

Business Printing International
2464 Rue Le Charlene
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
888 303-5515 Toll Free
(310) 831-2770 LA Area
(310) 548-0845 Fax web site email

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