#UKvUSA Who really chooses paper?

Two continents: US and UK. Two different buying backgrounds: procurement and agency. Two alternative ways of looking at things. I’m delighted to have teamed up with Deborah Corn from PrintMediaCentr to bring two extremely different views to some important print questions. So welcom e to Print Buying: #UKvUSA where Deborah and I share information about our experiences from both sides of the pond.

At the end of this post I have linked to Deborah’s answer to the same question. We wrote our answers (each limited to 500 words) without any idea of what the other was writing. As Deborah says: “Maybe we will agree, maybe we won’t, maybe we don’t even see the question in the same way – who knows… that’s the fun part!”

Please do leave comments, thoughts and support at the bottom of this post and on Deborah’s post.   It would be great if also posted your thoughts on Twitter, using the hashtag #UKvUSA Remember to watch out for our answers to another question next month.

UKVUSA_newsletter2#UKvUSA Who really chooses paper?

Changing paper stock can make a huge impact to the look or feel of an item

The difference between a coated and uncoated stock is obvious. But a slight change in coating or shade can change perceptions more than most people realise.

Paper specification can also make a dramatic difference to the cost of an item. When I worked in magazines, a difference in 5gsm paper weight could make a 12% difference in price. Careful paper specification could also mean that the magazine didn’t have to be any thinner.

This knowledge of how to make the right paper specifications is disappearing

Who specifies the paper for your print products

Who specifies the paper for your print products

Most buyers and specifiers do not understand the finer points of paper. The traditional craft of paper specification is vanishing.

General buyers have never been taught about paper. They rely on printers to make the specification for them. Or they ask for their paper stock to be “the same as last time”. Many times the stock may have been changed by the printer. It may be the same grade and weight of paper. But the printer may have changed their supply agreements. The paper may now be supplied from a different mill. That can mean changes to the specification.

Buyers need to be aware of an important factor.

This lack of knowledge applies to both buyer and printing companies

Most printing companies (hopefully) have more knowledge technical of paper than their customers. However, these days, most of their buyers stick to what is easily available from the merchants. They rarely look further than their main supply partner unless they are really pushed by the buyer. (And, as we have seen, that is not likely to happen).

In the UK at least, the range of available merchants is getting smaller and smaller. There has been a huge amount of consolidation over recent years. The consolidation isn’t just restricted to merchants.

Specialist paper producers are rapidly going out of business

There is now a reduction in demand for unusual papers. This is driven by a lack of buyer knowledge as well as a reluctance to specify premium papers at a higher cost.

This is compounded by an absence of desire by printers to encourage buyers to use non-standard stocks. They make stock management and efficient press running more difficult.

So, who really chooses paper?

My answer is virtually no-one. A near-universal lack of paper knowledge is leading us all to rely on standard specifications. Many people just do not care what paper a product is printed on as long as it looks roughly right.

We are limiting our choice and creativity by a lack of knowledge.

How did Deborah tackle this question? See here. Look out for the next #UKvUSA battle next month: UKvUSA: What matters more: price or value?

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One Response to #UKvUSA Who really chooses paper?

  • Pam says:

    I agree with you 100 % Matthew,

    My most frustrating issue is receiving a brief from an agency for an awesome product and the paper spec is art gloss / matt xxxgsm

    yet they don’t request assistance and when you want to have the conversation it is what ever…

    We need to definitely change the status quo

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