Publisher considers the sensory attributes of paper

22.8.2014 / Article

The person choosing a printing paper thinks of how the paper could enhance the magazine’s brand. Paper makers want to understand this process and terminology better.

The paper I’m holding, is it chic? This is the question many European publishers or editors-in-chief ask themselves when choosing a magazine paper. Then again, a Finnish paper engineer thinks about weight, opacity and processability.

Ms. Laura Ryhänen, Marketing Superintendent at Stora Enso, wrote her Master’s thesis on the role of the senses in selecting magazine papers.

“The car industry is light years ahead in taking senses into account. No one buys a car based on its technical data only, but you go and see it and test drive it. Your needs and the car’s image, technical details and price need to match,” Ryhänen says.

Deeper understanding on customer’s processes

Paper is marketed on the basis of technical data. Production times and prices are the major factors limiting the magazine paper grades that can be considered for use. To the person in charge of buying paper for a publisher, this technical data gives an idea of the paper. To large extent, he or she decideds the paper grades from which the final selection is made.

However, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, who does not necessarily know about the technical details, is strongly involved in the final selection. What the editor-in-chief knows is the magazine’s brand which the paper selected must support and strenghten.

”In my thesis, I looked into how we can better help the buyers choose from the paper grades on the basis of the sensory attributes associated with them, in various stages,” Ryhänen says.

Ryhänen interviewed 16 representatives of European publishers for her thesis. “As a result, we got a better idea of how the customers’ process of choosing a paper works overall.”

Thanks to her research, the customers also had some ‘eureka’ moments concerning their own practices and issues that affect their decisions.

Paper’s sound and smell matter

The important issue is how photos and text will look when printed on a particular grade of paper.
“Still, publishers also think about how paper feels in your fingers when you turn the pages, what it smells like, what kind of noice is created when you turn the pages,” Ryhänen says.

A paper which rustles is thought to be ”real” paper but also of low quality. The papers used in upmarket fashion or lifestyle magazines do not rustle, they sigh or whisper.

For many, image of environmentally friendly paper means it has a matt or silky feel, or may even be rough. Shiny coated magazine paper is seen as less friendly to the environment.

“Both qualities are environementally friendly and recyclable,” Ryhänen says.

There are fashions in magazine papers, too. A couple of years ago the in thing was to go for a completely different type of paper. If a magazine had been printed on traditional coated and shiny paper, the new choice was a rough uncoated, even cardboard-like paper. The point was to attract the customer’s attention and create a new sensory experience.

Customers get better service

”Now that we understand better what the publishers mean when speaking about stylish or confidence-inspiring paper, it is easier to offer them grades that fit these images, and to think of what samples to send of what grades to who,” Ryhänen says.

In the future, the process of translating a given style into technical qualities can start already at the paper mill. So, it might be possible to customize a batch of paper for the needs of a particular customer at the paper machine.

“It doesn’t matter if you know that a grade is two points higher on gloss. What matters is what it looks like. To a great extent, people are just going to look at it!” is how a British interviewee summed up the issue when discussing the looks of paper.

Further information:

Laura Ryhänen’s thesis: Co-creating understanding of the role of senses in magazine paper selection

Krista Kimmo

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