Newspaper distribution in the Covid-19 pandemic

The World Printers Summit 2020 – Virtual Edition

Newspaper distribution in the Covid-19 pandemic

The World Printers Summit 2020, organized from 27-29 October by Wan-Ifra, hosted a session on newspaper distribution issues during the pandemic. Birgir Jonsson, chief executive officer, Iceland Post, and Vito Petrucci, manager, National Distribution and Logistics, The Globe and Mail, spoke about the challenges in distributing newspapers arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and the lessons learned. Dave Toth, operations manager, TC Transcontinental, moderated the webinar.

The Globe and Mail

The Canadian political and business journal, founded in 1844, is built on the pillars of national and international news, business news, and lifestyle content. It delivers nearly 40 million newspapers per year, including The New York Times, The International Express, and Weekly Guardian.

The Globe and Mail faced several distribution challenges with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. These included ensuring the safety of distribution partners and carriers, contingency planning, and communication among staff. It relied on Health Canada information to devise a safety plan for its employees, which included working remotely from home. For health and safety, the product flow was reviewed to avoid unnecessary touchpoints before reaching the final destination. For those unable to work
remotely, such as dispatchers, vendors, and truckers, the risks to themselves and customers were mitigated while executing their tasks. For instance, front door delivery was changed to copies being labeled and left in the lobby. The use of plastic bags was stopped to avoid the risk of surface transfer of the virus.

Newspaper distribution in the Covid-19 pandemic

The publication had a contingency plan in place in case someone from the organization tested positive for Covid-19. It had scenarios for both root level and district level. For keeping abreast of infections, frequent and consistent internal and external communication was practiced. After the government declared newspapers an essential service, it enforced strict protocols, encouraged physical distancing, used protective gear or PPE, and educated employees to wash their hands frequently and sanitize when washing wasn’t possible. If a carrier displayed any Covid symptoms, they were encouraged to isolate themselves at home for 48 hours instead of penalizing them.

Each independent vendor was asked to document critical information from anyone who displayed symptoms outlined by Health Canada and report it to their head office. In case the carriers were tested, they were asked to submit a copy of the test results before resuming work. Many buildings had restricted access to their premises, which affected more than 1600 subscribers. Corporate accounts, airports, and retailers were severely impacted due to travel restrictions and working from home. Many multi-dwelling
units and independent homes canceled subscriptions due to the fear of contracting the virus.

The Globe and Mail continued to inform customers about the measures undertaken to ensure their safety. Misidentified cases were another challenge they had to face. Many carriers displayed Covid-19 like symptoms and were asked to self-quarantine for 48 hours and get tested if they still had symptoms. They were asked to submit a negative test result before resuming work. The Covid-19 pandemic also positively impacted subscriptions, as many home delivery subscriptions increased on weekends. There was a significant decrease in down routes, and a decrease in gas prices added to carriers’ net pay. Since there were no cultural activities, this helped the publication combine sections and minimized the overall package. A change was observed in customer expectations, and there
was an improved service level for the publication.

Iceland Post

Birgir Jonsson, chief executive officer, Iceland Post

The Iceland Post, founded in 1998, delivers 70 million units per annum. There has been a significant change in courier services since the pandemic’s onset, with an increase in parcels and a decrease in letters. The firm devised digital solutions for improved service and increased profitability during the Covid phase.

The pandemic has severely impacted the publication industry across the globe. However, newspaper and magazine publications have come up with unique ways to overcome the situation.

“Companies have to become smarter without impacting service,” says Vito Petrucci. “Post-pandemic, our priority is still safety for our coworkers, independent contractors, as well as our customers. We continue to communicate with them to make sure that they know that we are doing everything possible to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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