Frankfurt Book Fair restructures and plans ahead

FBF virtual feedback shows contradictory interests

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In earlier times –Asian food at the Frankfurt Book Fair
In earlier times –Asian food at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Initially planned to take several months, the Frankfurt Book Fair’s restructuring process appears to have been sped up and finalized already. After consultations between the management and the workers’ council, the fair’s corporate structures have been streamlined by discontinuing certain activities and merging departments, leading to ‘unavoidable’ staff reductions by 1 January 2021. FBF’s New York office, for instance, will be closed with immediate effect. Some of its activities are to be taken over by the Goethe Institute.

According to an earlier announcement, the restructuring process’s purpose is ‘to ensure the continued existence of the fair’ at its physical Frankfurt venue. FBF director Juergen Boos commented, “Like many other businesses, Frankfurt Book Fair has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic on an existential level. As a result, we had to implement a restructuring process that involves painful and far-reaching changes.”

Parallel to the internal restructuring, discussions have taken place in recent weeks with some 200 book industry professionals from Germany and abroad. The exchange focused on what exhibitors are concerned with, in today’s uncertain times and what the Frankfurt Book Fair can do to provide its customers with more support. Participants agreed that a physical fair should take place to the extent permitted by the pandemic. At the same time, they said, the fair should concentrate on the basics: offering a venue for the international rights and licensing business and facilitating networking within the international book and publishing industry.

On a more detailed level, the exhibitors’ responses revealed a diverse range of needs – while international exhibitors would focus on B2B venues and an improved matchmaking tool, German exhibitors say that interactions between their authors and the public and the resulting media response are of major importance. All participants said they would like flexible presentation formats. Digital tools already on offer are to be developed further in order to enhance the physical fair’s significance.

Managing director of the FBF Juergen Boos said, “The customer feedback we have received in recent weeks is very valuable to us. It shows that the Frankfurt Book Fair must serve different and, in some cases, contradictory interests. Yet responding to this diversity is what we are known for. We will be presenting our concept for FBF 2021 in a few weeks.”

The next Frankfurt Book Fair is to take place from 20-24 October 2021. Whereas exhibitors will be able to start booking their stands for the 2021 event, the organizers are also working on FBF’s digital approach, to be used either to complement the physical event or to carry the fair again, pending the progress of responses to the pandemic.

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.

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