Monthly Archives: December 2014

Rise of the Machines

Epson Discproducer PP-50

Our DVD duplication “factory” – an Epson Discproducer PP-50 with a Dell Ultra Small Form Factor computer.

It’s no secret that “traditional” college media, like newspapers and yearbooks, are struggling financially these days. Our yearbook, GM View, is no different. It happened slowly, but our yearbook sales have eroded to the point that producing a yearbook is becoming a serious financial burden.

Honestly, I’ve never understood why our yearbook doesn’t sell better. It’s a great way to remember one’s time at Mason, doesn’t cost a lot (at less than $50) and even comes with a companion DVD. I can only guess that most students aren’t aware that we have a yearbook.

Several other universities have discontinued their yearbooks because of rising costs and sagging sales, but I didn’t want the same fate for our yearbook since it is one of the few student publications, along with Broadside and Phoebe, that existed before George Mason University became an independent university in 1972. After all these years, not having a yearbook just seems wrong.

Since I have limited control over marketing, I focused on the areas where I could make a difference – technology.

One of the areas I quickly identified was the cost of DVD duplication. In previous years, we contracted out duplication, paying around $2.50 per DVD. Additionally, we were spending $1.24 for packaging on top of that. Nearly $4 per DVD seemed expensive to me. And I’m not even including shipping costs or the cost of the labor it took to assemble everything when it came in.

We had tried DVD duplication in-house before. Gunston Hall asked us for 125 copies of our George Mason documentary (a CBI 2014 finalist for Best Documentary) on DVD. We were unable to contract this job out because of the tight turn-around time. So, I set up 10 laptop computers and, with the assistance of our front desk staff, began burning DVDs. We printed labels out on stickers and applied them to the DVDs. It took us two very labor-intensive days to finish the job and the results were so-so. This is clearly not the way to go.

After that, I started looking into purchasing a DVD duplicating machine. They aren’t terribly expensive and they eliminate virtually all the labor necessary in creating a DVD. No need to load each disc or apply stickers. After some research, we ended up purchasing an Epson Discproducer PP-50 for a little more than $1,800.

For the 2013-2014 GM View yearbook, we also made a change in packaging. In previous years, we shipped the DVD in a separate keep case. In my opinion, this made it seem like the DVD was a separate product instead of a companion to the yearbook. This year, we included the DVD in a sleeve on the inside front cover of the yearbook. Not only does this make the DVD truly a part of the yearbook, it saves us quite a bit in packaging cost, and is lighter and cheaper to ship to boot.

Bottom line, the yearbook DVD, including packaging, now costs around $1.25. With a savings of around $2.50 per DVD, we should have the machine paid off in two to three years, assuming we don’t take any other duplicating jobs (which I’d very much like to do). And the results look great. I feel that we have cut costs without sacrificing quality.

Hopefully, with the other changes we made, including opening the yearbook up to all students (not just seniors) and accepting orders online, GM view will be around for years to come.

Here’s a video of the Epson Discproducer PP-50 at work: