Going glossy and going back

Cynthia Mao

We went glossy earlier this year because of a lucky find — a startup printing company approached us with a radical new business model that gave us free glossy pages.

It was risky. There was always a chance that they would call us one day and tell us they couldn’t print our magazine. But the previous editor team decided to take a chance. While there was evident risk to reliability, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

For two issues, the gamble paid off. The glossy pages were beautiful — the kind of professional quality that we strive towards in everything we do. The switch brought an overwhelmingly positive response from our readers as well as from our staff.

And then, everything fell through. A couple of weeks into this last cycle, our printer emailed us with bad news. Because of financial reasons, he could no longer print for us. We only had the senior issue left, and while we wanted to finish the year with the glossy-full color magazine that we had grown to love, we returned to newsprint.

While we would like to say it was a hard decision, going back to newsprint, it really wasn’t. Glossy, full-color pages cost three times as much as newsprint. And ultimately, it’s the content that counts. More students would pick up the magazine if it were glossy, but if they’re just admiring a satin sheen, what’s the point? We’ve been taught since Day 1 that “content is king,” and with glossy pages, content quality might’ve decreased, “compensated” for by the fact that we

were printing on higher-quality paper. It’s a perk, then, that going back to newsprint will force us to scrutinize our work a little more closely if we want to maintain readers’ interests. High-quality work is what we’re aiming for, and a glossy magazine shouldn’t be worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on. We acknowledge the fact that newsprint is an automatic turn-off for some, but in the end, it’s the people whose stories we tell that matter.

Though we weren’t the one to make the decision to take the risk with glossy, we have to deal with the fallout — and that’s okay. Because taking that big risk reaped a big reward. As the new editors-in-chief, we realized a need for taking these chances. Perhaps the overall result of the experiment was inconsequential in the long run — a few months of an interesting departure from the norm in the 43 years of El Estoque’s history — but it was a part of us finding out what works best for this publication, and that can only come from trial and error.

Our stint with glossy has opened up several more questions for us to resolve, especially now that we’ve returned to newsprint. Are we going to continue looking for a cheaper glossy printer? Are we going to continue with the 16 pages of color that we used to have or will we make room in our budget to go full color? The questions are yes, seemingly only about the aesthetic aspect of the magazine, but answering them is also about discovering what is best for our audience, and discovering what is going to move us forward as a publication.