Content: Heather Retzlaff
Charts: Lisa Santo

An emphasis on all things digital was the trend once again among respondents to Catalog Age’s exclusive 2004 Benchmark Survey on Print, Production, and Paper. In the two years since we last conducted a survey on the topic, catalogers have embraced digital workflows, digital photography, and digital proofing.

Another notable shift is in paper buying. Fewer respondents say they purchase paper from printers; instead more are buying it from paper brokers or merchants. Smaller shifts, however, proved to be the most common. Mean page counts increased for business-to-business catalogers and hybrids (those for whom businesses and consumers account for almost equal portions of revenue) yet decreased for consumer respondents.

Catalog trim size is stabilizing, with 84% of respondents having made no change during the previous 12 months, compared with 76% of respondents to the last survey. And both b-to-b and hybrid catalogers have increased their use of coated freesheet considerably. Half of the business respondents use coated freesheet, up from 28% of the b-to-b participants in the previous survey, while 64% of the hybrids do so, up from 41%.

Change in trim size during the past 12 months
Consumer B-to-b Hybrid
Increased 6% 0 4%
Decreased 13% 9% 15%
Made no change 81% 91% 81%
Mean page counts
2002 2004
Consumer 91.0 82.1
B-to-b 301.0 370.2
Hybrid 105.0 166.6
Size of primary catalog
Standard 80%
Digest 9%
Square 1%
Oversize 2%
Slim-jim 1%
Other 7%


Thanks no doubt to technological advances and declining costs, more catalogers are designing their books inhouse, rather than relying on consultants. The percentage of respondents who design their own catalogs has increased slowly but surely, from 64% in 2000 to 70% in 2002 to 75% this year. Meanwhile the percentage of respondents using an agency to design their catalogs has decreased to 13% this year, from 18% in 2002 and 21% in 2000.

The mean page count for b-to-b catalogs was 370.2 this year, up nearly 23% from 301.0 in 2002. Hybrid respondents increased their mean page counts to 166.6 pages from 105.0 pages two years ago. Mean page counts for consumer catalogs, however, decreased nearly 10% during the past two years, to 82.1 pages from 91.0 pages in 2002. On a heartening note, 39% of this year’s respondents planned to increase the number of pages in their primary catalog during the next 12 months — that’s an increase of one percentage point over 2002’s participants and eight points over 2000’s. In comparison, only 5% planned to decrease the number of pages during the coming year.

Eighty-four percent of catalogers in this year’s Benchmark Survey responded that they’d made no change to the trim size of their catalog during the past 12 months, compared with 76% in the 2002 respondents. What’s more, only 11% of respondents had decreased trim size over the last year, compared with 20% of those surveyed two years ago.

Digital proofing far more common than remote proofing
Using only digital proofing Using remote proofing Using both digital and remote
Sales less than $1 million 29% 6% 23%
Sales $1 million-$9.9 million 24% 5% 29%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million 35% 11% 24%
Sales at least $50 million 19% 0 50%
Forms of electronic catalogs produced
CD-ROM 14%
Internet via Website 90%
Internet via third party service 12%
Projected change in number of pages in next 12 months
Increase pages Decrease pages Make no changes
Sales less than $1 million 37% 0 63%
Sales $1 million-$9.9 million 36% 10% 55%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million 47% 2% 51%
Sales at least $50 million 36% 9% 55%
Totals may exceed 100% due to rounding


Continuing a trend from the 2002 survey, reliance on technology in prepress has continued to strengthen — particularly with the use of the portable document format (PDF) technology, digital content management systems, and digital photography. Among this year’s survey respondents, 70% use PDF, while two years ago only 53% did, and in 2000 just 40% did. Catalogers with sales of at least $50 million make the most use of PDF: 85% this year, up from 66% two years ago. Three-quarters of catalogers with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million use PDF, compared with 66% in 2002. Showing the largest increase in adaptation, up 29 percentage points to 79% this year, were catalogers with sales of $1 million-$9.9 million. Even the smallest companies — those with sales of less than $1 million — are embracing PDF technology: 47% used it this year, compared with 27% in 2002.

Catalogers’ workflows are also continuing to go digital. Among respondents to this year’s survey, a mean 67.2% of their workflow was digital, compared with a mean 62.7% two years ago. And while digital content management isn’t yet universal, the majority of respondents with sales of at least $50 million — 55% — used some sort of digital system to organize catalog content. Compare that with 15% of respondents with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million, 7% of those with sales of $1 million- $9.9 million, and none of the catalogers with sales of less than $1 million.

The percentage of respondents that use digital photography exclusively climbed to 43% from 29% two years ago. Conversely, whereas 58% of respondents in 2002 had used both digital and analog photography, this year 49% used both.

How respondents print their primary catalogs
Offset Gravure Both
Sales less than $1 million 84% 3% 13%
Sales $1 million-$9.9 million 85% 8% 8%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million 84% 5% 12%
Sales at least $50 million 67% 18% 15%
Totals may exceed 100% due to rounding
Respondents who have a digital content management system
2002 2004
Yes 12% 18%
No, and not considering it 71% 61%
No, but considering it 17% 22%
Totals may exceed 100% due to rounding
Mean percentage of production workflow that’s digital
Sales less than $1 million 60.4%
Sales $1 million-$9.9 million 62.3%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million 69.0%
Sales at least $50 million 74.9%


After modest increases in the growth of computer-to-plate (CTP) printing among respondents during the past few years, its use has declined slightly. In 2002, 76% of respondents were using CTP, up from 72% in 2000. This year 70% of respondents used CTP. But among catalogers with sales of $10 million-$49.9 million, 86% of this year’s respondents used CTP compared with 78% of those surveyed in 2002.

Nineteen percent of this year’s respondents used on-demand printing, up from 10% two years ago. The use of ink-jetting on back covers dipped, with 73% of this year’s respondents using it compared with 79% of the 2002 participants. On the other hand, 59% of this year’s respondents used ink-jetting on order forms, up from 50% two years ago.

Catalogers continue to use their printers for more than just printing services. Thirteen percent of respondents received environmental advice from their printers, compared with 8% in 2002; 17% received Internet services this year, up from 11% two years ago. A more popular service is digital file storage: 43% of respondents use their printers’ archival and digital storage services, an increase from 38% of respondents in 2002.

Number of times respondents changed printers during the past two years
Once 30%
Twice 10%
Three times 2%
More than three times 3%
No change 55%
Changes in stock paper during the past 12 months
Upgraded quality Downgraded quality Made no changes
Sales less than $1 million 3% 17% 80%
Sales $1 million-$9.9 million 12% 14% 74%
Sales $10 million-$49.9 million 27% 24% 49%
Sales at least $50 million 25% 13% 63%
Totals may exceed 100% due to rounding
Respondents’ use of recycled paper
Order forms 24%
Primary catalog 11%
Promotional pieces 20%
Sale or specialty books 10%
Do not use 59%
Other uses 3%


In what was one of the largest trends noted in this year’s survey, respondents are turning to merchants and brokers as a source of paper. Forty-eight percent of this year’s respondents bought from paper merchants or brokers, compared with 31% two years ago and 21% in 2000. At the same time, respondents have reduced their reliance on printers as a paper provider, as 54% of respondents have purchased paper from them during the past year, down from 68% in 2002 and 81% in 2000. The greatest shift occurred among the smallest catalogers, those with less than $1 million in sales: 42% of them bought paper from their printers, compared with 80% in 2002. And 55% bought from a paper merchant or broker this year, while 16% of the smallest respondents did two years ago.

Mean paper weights decreased across the board from two years ago. The average weight for inside pages this year was 36.9 lb., while two years ago it was 42.8 lb. The mean cover weight was 55.5 lb. this year, while two years ago it was 65.1 lb. Again, the smallest catalogers saw the greatest changes. Among respondents with sales of less than $1 million, the mean inside paper weight was 21.6 lb., down from 40.0 lb. in 2002; the mean cover weight was 29.8 lb. compared with 51.4 two years ago.

Interested in the complete results from our Benchmark Survey on Print, Paper, and Production?

To buy the full report, visit, then click the Research tab near the top of the home page to be directed to the Marketer’s Research Store.

Coated freesheet still most popular paper choice


On June 23, Primedia Business e-mailed an invitation to participate in an online survey to 4,181 Catalog Age magazine subscribers selected on an nth-name basis. Specifically targeted were subscribers indicating job function as president/owner, vice president, or production/design management. The invitation contained an embedded URL linking the respondent to the research Website where the Catalog Age Benchmark Survey on Print, Production, and Paper questionnaire was located. Respondents were offered a chance to be entered into a drawing for one of four $50 gift certificates to A follow-up e-mail was transmitted on June 30. Of the 3,604 deliverable surveys, 168 usable surveys were completed, for an effective response rate of 4.7%.

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