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.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels 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. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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