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.
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.
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.”