The participants from around 25 countries met in the “Literaturhaus Frankfurt” (“House of Literature Frankfurt”) under the guiding theme of the WPS 2023: “Business Partnerships in a Sustainable World”.
About 25 speakers and moderators discussed with the audience topics as:
Future of the printed newspaper
Financial sustainability of the printed newspaper
Rising energy costs
Newsprint prices and volumes
Mineral oil free inks
The following 2 speakers thematised the Carbon neutrality:
While many news publishers and printing plants in Europe have until 2055 to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions, a significant reporting obligation is quickly approaching in 2025: the non-financial reporting from that business year.
Christoph Migotsch, Sustainability Manager of Süddeutsche Verlag, presented at WPS how the printer of Süddeutsche Zeitung and other Nordic (print format) titles in Germany are progressing toward those goals, the risks involved with not-so accurate reporting or not hitting the specific targets, their results for 2022 and basic advice for other publishers.
“People underestimate the (carbon) footprint of data centres. The energy consumption is huge. It’s so huge that if at least three people read the same article, it’s more efficient to print it,” said Lennert Van Mens, who co-leads the ESG & Sustainable Finance Solutions Team at Commerzbank in Germany, working with clients that also include the news business.
Meeting the suppliers
Between these sessions the participants had chances to meet suppliers and discuss with them the latest developments and interesting innovations. 20 supplier companies presented their products and systems.
PIA 2023 awarding ceremony
At the end of the first day (Wednesday) WAN-IFRA presented in an awarding ceremony the winners of the Print Innovation Awards 2023.
German language discussion about “Konsolidierung im Zeitungsdruck”
In the early morning of the second day (Thursday) participants of the “DACH” region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) were invited to a special discussion (in German language) about the “Consolidation in newspaper printing”, which is at the moment a hot topic in this area.
Last session: The printed newspaper in 5 years
Carsten Knop, Publisher of FAZ Digital Products at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany, and Paul Verwilt, COO, Mediahuis in Belgium talked about the challenges each brand faces with their print business.
Knop shared how FAZ’s digital business may keep print relevant for years and visa versa. But he minced no words about the “depressing nature” of the print business.
FAZ has enjoyed a steady growth rate of 30 percent YoY for its digital subscription offer for the last few years. Knop said digital revenues actually bring in about 50 percent of the company’s earnings but that print still drives about two-thirds of their revenue.
One of FAZ’s challenges, like many newspapers all over the world, is attracting younger readers to its brand. Knop said the average age of an FAZ subscriber is 68 years old. That is bad news and good news: On the good side, those older subscribers are willing to pay a hefty price for subscriptions (particularly a bundle on print). But they need to attract younger readers for a more sustainable future. Knop said that FAZ has gone all-in on TikTok and video to address part of that issue.
While he acknowledged that the print business has helped support its digital activities, he said, “We will only be able to continue our print business if our digital business flourishes. If we are still flexible in how we adapt to the new digital business, we can print for years.”
Verwilt said that 70 percent of Mediahuis’ gross margin (newspaper business, i.e. B2C) came from print in 2022; 30 percent from digital. By 2030 the company expects that to flip to be 30 percent print, 70 percent digital.
“Print cost per copy … we feel like we can control that quite well over the next seven years. But distribution is the real challenge. If we do not solve that issue, that will be the reason we would eventually stop printing – not because of relevancy or reach.”
But he said the company continues to look for solutions on this front.