WAN-IFRA: Can you tell our readers about how long you have been in the industry?
Dr. Klemens Berktold: I have been working in the printing industry since 1998. After holding various positions at Gruner + Jahr and Prinovis, I have been responsible for the print business at Funke Mediengruppe since 2011.
How has your company tackled the paper challenges?
We use paper sparingly. We pay attention to waste, reduce the grammage where possible, and limit the circumference here and there. I think other houses do the same.
What are the main challenges in distribution?
For the printed newspaper, the logistics costs per copy have continued to rise over the years. This is due to the development of minimum wages as well as household coverage (share of households with a subscription to the daily newspaper). At the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain the necessary continuity of logistic staff in the last mile. As if that were not enough, fuel costs have also risen. So, there are more than enough challenges in distribution.
How is your company attracting new talents?
Funke uses a variety of channels, such as social media, online job exchanges, podcasts, or our own career pages, to reach new talents. Cleverly networked, the various portals and platforms result in a high-reach presence. Funke also offers young people the opportunity to actively shape the media world of tomorrow and to accompany an exciting transformation process. In addition, Funke attracts with numerous offers ranging from mobile office and flexible working hours to job tickets and fitness studios to training programmes at our in-house Funke Academy. All these perspectives and benefits add up to a package of advantages that positions Funke as an attractive employer in the market.
Where do you see the most growth potential for the newspaper printers?
In our traditional business of newspaper printing, we are unit-cost-driven. You must therefore pay attention to the high-capacity utilisation of your coldset operations. Unfortunately, the print runs of existing orders are generally declining continuously throughout the industry. To compensate, new orders have to be acquired on the market. This is only possible if the best price-performance ratio is offered, and competitors are ousted.
Nevertheless, economic opportunities for the newspaper printing business lie primarily in the increasing flexibility and variability of newspapers themselves. Programmatic printing and clever distribution systems are the most important keywords in taking newspapers to the next level. The more individually newspapers are tailored to the reader, the more intensive the printed messages and advertising effects.
But even in the B2C sector, the newspaper medium is far from exhausted. Our web shops smartpaper24.com and zeitungsdruck-online.de allow you to design your own newspapers online and to print it starting from edition one. So, it is a matter of opening up newspaper printing to a wide market and adapting it to the specific needs and expectations of customers. Especially for companies, clubs and organisations, short-run printing is an excellent way to configure an own newspaper product and have it professionally produced with relatively little effort.
One technology/hardware that you have invested/are planning to invest in, and why?
In recent years, the focus has been on retrofit investments, rationalisation investments, and investments in the expansion of inserting technology to include additional inserting stations.
One issue that has been irking you and affecting your business lately. And how are you overcoming it?
We would welcome less fluctuation in paper and energy prices. I could imagine that more continuity in pricing policy would be beneficial for all market participants in the longer term.
Technology and user preferences have changed. Is the newspaper printing industry adapting to these changes, or is it just catching up?
No printer will stop digitisation of the publishing business – no matter how cost-efficient. Printers must react proactively to market developments. Whether, conversely, a newspaper publisher can survive economically without offering a printed newspaper remains to be seen. In the end, readers and advertisers with their preferences will decide the future of the distribution channels. In my opinion, it is not a question of either-or, but both. Each channel should be designed in such a way that its respective strengths come to the fore and customer needs are met.
Sustainability is a catchphrase these days. In the past one year, what was your significant move towards sustainability? And how has it benefited you/the business?
The Funke Mediengruppe began focusing on decarbonisation and sustainability several years ago. Active energy and environmental management have long been standard in many printing plants, including ours. Much has already been achieved. Unfortunately, the efforts and results of the printing industry are often insufficiently perceived in the public debate. In the discourse, I still read and hear far too often unfounded reservations about print products. The initiatives of printing companies and their associations to contribute to a more objective debate are therefore to be welcomed.