Despite the inevitable concerns about what is seen as a sunset industry, newspaper printers at WAN-Ifra’s World Printers Summit in Frankfurt weren’t going down without a fight.
In a closing session, FAZ digital products publisher Carsten Knop spoke of the “depressing nature” of the print business.
Digital might “keep print relevant for years” and visa versa, but he didn’t mince his words about business challenges, while Mediahuis chief operating officer Paul Verwilt also talked about the challenges the Belgian group’s brands face with print business.
However, it needn’t be like this: Earlier, Commerzbank’s Lennert Van Mens made the point that the widely underestimated carbon footprint of data centres used so much energy that “if at least three people read the same article, it’s more efficient to print it”. As co-leader of the bank’s ESG and sustainable finance solutions team, Van Mens works with clients including news businesses.
Another speaker focussing on carbon neutrality was Süddeutsche Verlag sustainability manager Christoph Migotsch, who discussed European reporting requirements and the risks involved with “not-so accurate reporting” or failing to hit specified targets.
Earlier, German was the language of choice for a roundtable discussion in which (from left) Christian Wilms (Druck Styria), moderator Andreas Gierth (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Jürgen Schulze (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and Christian Siebert (Hamburger Abendblatt) took part.
Some 180 participants – including printers, publishers and suppliers – came together for the 2023 event at Literaturhaus Frankfurt (literally House of Literature) from October 11-13. Between sessions, participants met with suppliers to discuss developments and innovations, with 20 supplier companies presenting their products and systems. GXpress was a media partner.
During the event, at which Hannah Fischer was moderator, winners of the 2023 Print Innovation Awards were presented. Among winners was Sweden’s VK Media (from which Thomas Sandström and Johan Wedman are pictured with WPF director Ingi Olafsson).
In his address, Carsten Knop spoke of FAZ’s steady growth of 30 per cent a year in digital subscriptions recently. But while digital revenues account for about half of the company’s earnings, print “still drives about two-thirds of revenue”.
A familiar challenge is attracting younger readers, with the average age of an FAZ subscriber 68 years old. On the good side, those older subscribers are willing to pay a hefty price for subscriptions – particularly a bundle on print – but younger readers are needed for a more sustainable future, with FAZ pitching into TikTok and video to address the issue.
While he acknowledged that the print business has helped support its digital activities, he said it would only be possible to continue the print business if the digital business flourishes. “If we are still flexible in how we adapt to the new digital business, we can print for years,” he said.
Paul Verwilt told delegates that while 70 per cent of Mediahuis’ gross margin currently came from print and 30 per cent from digital, it was expected that by 2030, that will have flipped to 30 per cent print and 70 per cent digital.
On the cost front, he was confident of the ability to control print cost per copy for years to come, but less so the “real challenge” of distribution. “If we do not solve that issue, that will be the reason we would eventually stop printing – not because of relevancy or reach.”