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Print magic: 5 minutes with… Matt Carry

Every piece of print is an opportunity to wow your reader, says Acorn Web Offset’s Matt Carry. We grab five minutes with him to revisit some of the exciting options available to publishers to engage their audiences through print.

By Matt Carry

Print magic: 5 minutes with… Matt Carry

Q: What innovative things are publishers and their printing partners getting up to?

A: There’s been quite a few different things going on. We helped one of our clients launch their first bookazine, it was more of an undertaking for them in terms of content, but we assisted them with the specification to have much higher production values and an increased pagination compared to their regular magazine.

We have also seen a greater number of enquiries where the buying criteria when it comes to the paper choice is now more dependent on the carbon output. As a result, we have been analysing the mill data and making comparisons using CarbonCalc to help publishers make an informed decision regarding the paper they decide to use. Also, one of the publishers we work with have been improving their data for subscriptions and have made the step to using varying colour strapline messages on their paper wrap dependent on the status of their readers’ subscription. This includes subscription reminders, incentives and general promotion of up-and-coming events. Then, with our digital editions partner, we have also been contacting the publishers that use this service to make them aware of enhanced features when it comes to branding, advertising, video and analytics.

Q: From a print perspective, how can supplements and special features be made to stand out more?

A: There are many options available to publishers to highlight the prominence of a special feature and differentiate it from the rest of the magazine. Many of these can be simple adjustments that are relatively inexpensive. Looking at a different contrasting paper can be very effective. If the normal magazine pages are a gloss coated paper, you could make the supplement or special feature a bulky, coarse matt grade of paper. This tactile difference will really draw readers’ attention.

It is important to engage with your printer early regarding pagination and imposition. This is because your ability to change the paper and insert the contrasting stock will be limited to the section multiples that the printer uses when manufacturing. For example, as a 16pp or 32pp section.

Another change you could apply to the special feature section, either on the normal magazine paper or combined with the change in paper stock is to trim the special feature section shorter than the normal magazine pages. This is often just a 10mm reduction to the head and foredge of the special feature. The obvious physical difference naturally draws the eye to the feature placing a strong emphasis on your special content.

If a change to all 16pp or 32pp is not what you are looking for, you could insert a section leader, which is a thicker 250-300gsm bound-in card. This is just as effective and highlights where the special feature starts. This is often used within airline in-flight magazines and the heavier section leader creates a natural opening of the pages taking you swiftly to the in-flight menu or the duty-free shopping pages. Further enhancements to the leader card could be to apply a visually appealing fluorescent ink to increase the prominence further.

If you are looking for a direct unavoidable opening to your special feature, then the use of a spread-marker is the strongest solution. Most publishers are familiar with bellybands, but a spread-marker is where the bellyband is tipped in manually to specific pages using peelable glue dots. This forces you to go directly to the feature pages and no other pages can be read until the peelable glue dots have been removed. The impact is undeniable but, commercially, you need to ensure your advertiser or sponsor is covering both the content exclusivity and the high cost of production too. This is because it is a very manual, time consuming process and labour rates have risen dramatically in recent years.

Q: What options are there to give front covers the X factor?

A: The opportunity to create a striking and memorable impact with your cover really is a huge one and there are options for all budgets. Having come through some tough challenges these last few years, many magazines have understandably cut back hard to preserve viability. However, with that, we seem to have lost some enthusiasm and creativity with the use of our cover specifications. For smaller budgets, many printers now have in-house capabilities that can offer something both special and affordable. The obvious ones are the use of special pantone inks and metallics which are nothing new, but they are not often used and yet the costs for applying these have reduced as technology, inks and drying have improved.

Also, the range of in-line varnishes which are applied at the same time as printing the CMYK colours has greatly improved too. This now extends way beyond just the glossy UV varnish we have seen for decades and includes many tactile finishes that help promote a memorable sensory experience. The varnishes include gloss, high gloss, silk, matt, coarse matt, anti-microbial and luxury soft touch. As these are produced in-line, the uplift in cost is small plus many of these coatings are now also water based allowing you to sustain your eco credentials.

If you are simply looking to create a talking point or a point of difference within an established magazine community, then using a variety of different cover images can help achieve this. Simple inexpensive plate changing on the cover press whilst running can enable you to produce a standard newstrade cover, a different one for subscribers, another one for exclusive members or loyalty customers, a different one for overseas markets or exhibitors; this can create intrigue, envy and if you get it right, can even create an appetite to be a collectable.

For larger budgets the possibilities are endless and can allow publishers to make their covers truly memorable. From textured laminates, glitter varnishes, embossing and debossing, metallic foil blocking, glow in the dark inks, fragrance burst encapsulation and holographic boards, these can help you deliver any reader experience you wish to create. The key thing when considering doing something different with your magazine covers is to talk to your printer early in the planning process. Tell them the kind of experience and feelings you wish to create and through discussion and sampling together, you can create something stunning for your readers.

Q: Are there any examples of past print innovation which you would like to remind publishers about?

A: I think with any piece of print, it is an opportunity to wow your reader. In magazines, there are many ways to do this but personally I love to see publishers maximising the opportunities they already have rather than necessarily introducing extra components. For me, with the cover, you can really engage the reader from the first thing that they see. If you increase the cover to a 6pp roll fold, an 8pp gatefold or even a barn door cover, then if executed properly with strong and striking imagery, this can be really eye catching and engaging.

There is something quite immersive about an expanding piece of print that bursts beyond the constraints of the A4 page dimension it is supposed to be limited to. Luxury brands do this very well with watches, cars, even golf clubs and if you’re a print nerd like me then you find yourself unfolding and folding these multiple times.

Roll outs and expanding pieces of print do not need to be limited to just the covers and you can bind in similar pieces between the magazine text sections. The main thing is that it sticks in the memory and creates a feeling. Should you embark on doing something like this, it may seem daunting at first and there are some technical properties you do have to adhere to in order to guarantee success. Again, talk to your printer early and describe not only what you want but the experience you want to create. They have the expertise and will be able to help you.

Q: If you had a new publishing client, completely new to the world of print, what advice would you give them?

A: The main piece of advice I would offer is to take time and understand all of the steps in the supply chain. Also keep an open mind before deciding on what the size, format, paper and finish of the magazine is to look like. All too often, new publishers know the content they would like to share with their potential readers but are already too fixed on how they would like things to look without knowing whether it is scalable to the size of the market or whether it fits the needs of reaching that market.

It is not about stifling creativity as everyone wants to see the best possible looking magazine with the highest possible production values, but if you let aesthetics overrule the practicalities of say the postage system or the racks that the magazines are going to be displayed in, that will be costly and lead to waste within your circulation.

So, it is important to research the market and get expert opinion from multiple suppliers at each step, including design, editorial, advertising, print and distribution. Then evaluate the pros and cons of each supplier and how they interact with the other parts of the supply chain.

Don’t be afraid to put designers, printers and distributors together at the concept stage to flush out any potential failings before they happen and when you’ve shortlisted a printer, ask to talk to some of their publishers in similar markets. Ask them what that printer does well, what they don’t do well and how they have helped them along their print journey.

Collaboration is key and achieving efficiency at all steps is vital to ensure that you have a magazine that not only looks fantastic and meets all your expectations, but it can thrive in the best of times and survive the challenging times too.

Q: You attended Drupa recently in Dusseldorf. What excited you?

A: Despite having now worked in print for 28 years, this was my first visit to Drupa, and I was blown away with the enormity of the show. We had several specific things we wanted to talk to suppliers about, but what I was keen to explore in general was how the industry was using greater automation.

As an industry, we have been facing rising labour costs for some time. To keep print competitive against all the other possible marketing mediums, I feel we need to be paid for the craft, expertise and advice that we offer when helping publishers create stunning pieces of print, but to make it financially sustainable, we need to replace the nonskilled but essential processes like packing and palletising with more efficient solutions.

It is fair to say that DRUPA didn’t disappoint in this respect and there were robots everywhere! These robots were feeding sheets, transporting print between the press and the binder and palletising final finished copies. Whilst many of the items were more simplistic than what we offer, it holds promise for greater efficiency in the future. The other observation was that even with the pieces of printing technology we are most familiar with, like sheetfed presses for our cover production, the new launch models look so much more compact and polished in their appearance. The speed at which these new presses operate and the exceptional, near instant colour that can be achieved with very limited human intervention is going to offer magazine publishers better printing quality with much less waste incurred.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from Acorn Web Offset?

A: Whilst there is undeniable market decline, we are busy on quite a few fronts and feeling positive about the outlook. We recently launched our new website so are applying the final tweaks to that. There are several new monthly magazines starting with us in August, so we are getting prepared for on boarding these successfully. One of our sustainability actions was to install voltage optimisation and that is now rewarding us with decent reductions in electric consumption and carbon output. Our latest install of a robotic arm on the saddle stitchers is now into live production and whilst this is working well, we are addressing some teething issues with this new technology.

About us

Acorn Web Offset is a specialist printer of A4 and A5 multi-pagination magazines. Established over 45 years and operating from arguably one of the UK’s lowest cost production facilities, we currently produce over 300 titles. We support over 90 publishers, providing low-cost magazine print in a no fuss friendly way, with guaranteed on time delivery.



Twitter: @AcornWebOffset