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As if publishers didn’t have enough challenges trying to remain profitable, there’s now a magazine paper shortage to deal with. The shortage will likely cause higher paper prices and increased print lead times. And the short supply is not likely to improve in the near future. What can publishers do to mitigate these challenges?

What’s behind the paper shortage and rising costs?

Ironically, we can place a large portion of the blame for the paper shortage on the Digital Age. As more publishers switch their print titles to digital, demand for paper took a nose dive.

Many paper mills in the United States and Canada are shutting down machines or converting them to make more lucrative products such as packaging. In addition, China shut down nearly 280 paper mills as part of an environmental cleanup strategy, while increasing its demand for paper.

On top of that, according to an article on Publishing Executive, the cost of raw pulp has increased 25% during the past 18 months, and fuel costs and trucking shortages are further driving up paper costs. In addition, tariffs on paper imported from Canada slowed that source and contributed to higher paper costs.

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The effects on publishers

Printers are being hit by these higher paper costs, and many will pass those increases to their customers. Most experts agree that the paper shortage will go at least through 2019. Even after the supply picks up, prices will remain high as printers restock their shelves. In addition to the high printing costs, the shortage also means longer print lead times.

How publishers are dealing with paper shortages and higher costs

Magazine publishers are beginning to feel the financial pinch as well as experiencing print scheduling shakeups. Some are having difficulty finding their usual paper stock and are having to settle for whatever they can find, even resorting to putting a mix of stocks within a magazine’s pages.

Publishers need to plan ahead so that they aren’t caught short by the lack of magazine paper. Some printers are quoting lead times of three months or more to receive their paper shipments, and some mills are not even taking new orders until they clear their backlog of orders.

In light of this volatile situation, magazine publishers need to be flexible and keep in close communication with their printer. Request paper based on grade versus a specific brand. Schedule press runs early. And allow your printer to advise you of your best options. The shortage will eventually end and supplies will recover, but don’t look for magazine paper to quickly — if ever — return to pre-shortage prices.

If you are looking for guidance in dealing with the paper shortage and rising prices, Sheridan’s print experts can help you navigate the current rough waters of the magazine industry and stay afloat while the paper shortage sorts itself out.

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