Ink Link: Change Font, Save $400 Million

Screen shot 2014-03-30 at 11.11.56 AM I’m excited about the paper published by 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani by the Journal of Emerging Investigators. He is a Pennsylvania high school student who concluded his science research project can help reduce the national deficit in a big way.

The takeaway from his paper, “A Simple Printing Solution to Aid Deficit Reduction,” is this:

“Dear United States: I can save you $400 million.”

For Suvir, it began with a study of how his school might save money on printing costs. Rather than the usual tree-hugging approach, by reducing paper use, Suvir analyzed the cost-savings for ink with a simple idea: change the font. He concluded that by switching to Garamond, a lighter thinner font, the school would save 24 percent on ink, or $21,000, which is like a small pot of gold for any school.

His teacher, recognizing the kid was on to something, suggested he publish his findings in the JEI, an open-access journal founded by a group of Harvard grads.

Suvir’s ink link project was published March 10, 2014 and, within two weeks, was making international news.

During a recent CNN interview, Suvir delivered a priceless and savvy talking point, that printer ink is twice as expensive as French perfume, a statement verified by CNN. Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce. Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75 per ounce.

Ooh, la la.

Suvir also concluded that there would be  indirect environmental benefits – lower ink production and disposal volumes, and reduced paper use.

He extrapolated that if the federal government followed suit it could reduce the $1.8 billion 2014 printing budget by $136 million. If state governments switched fonts, the total annual savings to our U.S. government this year would be an additional estimated $234 million, depending on how wordy their printed documents.

A federal government spokesman, although non-committal about embracing change, called Suvir’s study “remarkable.”

I love this story for many reasons.

First, I love the power of education, and science projects gone viral.

Also, as one who has seen the newspaper industry shrink in part due to increasing production costs for ink and paper, I respect this young scientist’s approach to cost analysis.  Keep it simple. He’s not only done the math, he’s considered the vehicle by which our government communicates with we, the people.

It’s practical. It allows for the fact that while the Internet is used by about 75 percent of U.S. households, we still like to have something to hold on to (or file away, or send to our tax man, or frame for posterity).

Never mind that our country’s heavily-inked historical documents are in jeopardy of fading into oblivion due to the unintended side effects of time, wear, tear, temperature and light on old paper and organic ink.

As someone who has embraced the delivery of information via the Internet and virtual paper and ink, I am admittedly still a fan of the printed word.

It’s a necessary evil, and I have the paper piles to prove it.

Schools,  government entities, news and information outlets, and businesses will continue to print material.  Embracing the notion that there might be a better way and seeking simple solutions, like a simple font change, reminds me that change is good, especially when you are mindful of how you dot your “I” cross your “T” and count your pennies.


Finding the Right Words

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Mark Twain




Communication is key. You’ve heard that countless times.  As human beings, we are compelled to communicate. It’s our urge to understand and be understood.

We do so through words, actions, photographs, facial expressions, gestures, even silence.

Communication is how we understand the world around us. Thanks to technology, we can now communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere in real time. Don’t speak their language? No problem. There’s an app for that.

Whether for personal expression or a marketing campaign, finding the right words makes the difference between communication and effective communication.

For those of us who make our living by choosing and assembling words, there is no greater truth than the above quote by Mark Twain. Right words go beyond communicating a particular thought or idea; they can elevate, elicit change, generate action, create understanding, and stir emotion.

Words are a powerful communication tool when handled with expertise and care.

When writing anything – a greeting card message, a Facebook or blog post, a news story or marketing copy – I consider every word that seems to fit, and then I consider my options. For me, finding the right words is an adventure. For me, it’s the difference between capturing lightning bugs in a bottle and capturing lightning in a bottle, and understanding how the power to illuminate depends on your power source.



Every Picture Helps Tell Your Story

I have learned as a multi-media journalist the importance of being able to tell a story across multiple platforms.  Words have power. Images have power. Together, they tell a depth of story that one or the other alone cannot. Below is a slideshow of some of the images I’ve photographed to accompany stories that range in scale from a personal victory or struggle, to the power of community engagement and triumph; a new business launch or a town’s moment of collective grief.

You can see more examples of my photographic work here.


Creating Content: It’s My Thing

paperboy“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein


After years in the news trenches, I’m ready to launch Robidoux Ink Link, a solo venture into freelance content delivery.

I have been reading a lot about trends in digital content creation and starting up a solo business, and read with particular interest, “The Six Mistakes of New Ventures,” on Practical Decisions, an entrepreneurial think tank of sorts.

It gave me the following food for thought:

Mistake No. 1 is “Passion Without a Plan.” Passion is my strong suit. As for a plan, I’m excited to be working with New Hampshire’s innovative Pathway to Work program, which will help me develop a business plan and get things up and running. I am also in the good hands of Lee Hecht Harrison in Manchester, a parting gift from, which has provided me with invaluable resources.

Mistake No 2 is “Selling Too Cheaply.” Hey, tell me about it. As a longtime journalist in a shrinking industry for which no news entity seems interested in paying a living wage to highly trained professionals, I know well the hazard of working for peanuts. My sales pitch as a freelance digital content creator underscores my experience and effective way with words. I like to say I’m “worth my weight in gold” (although these days I might do better to say I’m worth my weight in bitcoin.) And I’m counting on my prospective clients to agree.

Mistake No. 3 is “Ineffective Marketing and Advertising.” If nobody knows who you are or what you can do, how will they find you? So, you will begin to see me popping up everywhere, from Facebook and Twitter to public events, and business mixers. I’d love to talk to your group or organization about what it means to be a 21st century media maven. Please share my links, give me feedback, reTweet me often. If you’ve been on the receiving end of my services or storytelling, I’d appreciate an endorsement to include here on my website. You can email me at

Mistake #4 is “Underestimating Capital,” and gets into knowing how you will sustain yourself until you break even, while maintaining a creative financing plan. As a longtime human being, I feel sustaining myself in creative financial ways is the sole reason why I’m still standing. Fortunately for me, in this particular venture, I don’t need a storefront. There’s no inventory I need to invest in upfront. It’s just me, doing what I do, from the inside out.

Mistake No. 5 is “Lack of Management Oversight.” You can take this to the bank: I plan to be the best boss I’ve ever had (no offense intended to all my previous bosses, who were all wonderful, by the way).

Mistake #6 is “Lack of Specific Skills:” They saved the best for last, in my estimation. Because Robidoux Ink Link will finally give me the chance to fluff my feathers and spread my wings as a skilled journalist, storyteller, content creator and professional writer. And fortunately for me, I am also an enthusiastic networker, diligent Tweeter and Facebook fiend, I love meeting new people, and pitching ideas.

Of course, there is one more important point: We all make mistakes, at least six of them in a life time. Especially writers and journalists and editors, who know that this is a daily hazard of the human condition. We’ve got the “next-day correction” archives to prove it. I firmly believe that if you’re out there not making mistakes, it’s because you’re not doing anything.

Today, I am ready to fly.