Has the structure of the workload changed?

Commentary written by Lasse Krogell

What effect has the pandemic and the shortage of paper had on the structure of the workload of a commercial printer? Smithers, earlier for the printing industry known as Pira, is a well renowned research company providing market reports and industry forecasts. I found a table from their report of the European print market showing the value of different product segments.

The table shows the development from 2011 to 2016 and the forecast to 2021. The product segments in the table are Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Advertising, Catalogues, Commercial and Directories. The table shows the average annual change from 2011 to 2016 being biggest for magazines -7,3 %, newspapers -5,5 %, directories -4,9 % and catalogues -3,5 %. The other groups had a drop of 1,4 %.  The forecast to 2021 shows directories -3,4 %, newspapers -2,6 % magazines -2,3 %, catalogues -2,0 %, books -1,7 %, commercial -0,8 and advertising +0,2 %.

I suppose this forecast was made in 2017, long before the situation we are in now. I don’t have any statistics about how the actual figures for 2021 are but they are certainly quite different from the forecast from 2017.  Looking at Euro-Graph paper demand statistics we see in 2019 an 8 % drop in newsprint and sc, -12 % in coated and uncoated mechanical reels and -10 % in woodfree. In 2020 newsprint and coated mechanical -22 % and coated woodfree -25 % and uncoated woodfree -14 %. In 2021 up till November newsprint still fell by 3,4 %, coated mechanical + 1,5 %, coated woodfree + 7,6 % and uncoated woodfree + 6,6 %.

Summing up the old Pira figures and the paper demand figures, it is obvious that newsprint and magazines are the two big losers in this game. As the door drop advertising is using also newsprint, the drop for newspapers is certainly even bigger than the paper figures tell.   I suppose the same goes for magazines. Bookprinting is probably the big winner. The demand for books has been good during the pandemic. Looking at what comes in my mailbox, advertising seems to have kept its strong position.

It would be very interesting to see what the actual situation is today and what is the forecast for the future. Smithers has published a new report last year with the title “The Future of Global Printing to 2026”. According to the presentation of the report on their web pages there will be updated figures also for Europe. Smithers tells that the global value of print will show a small growth from 2016 (800 billion dollars) to 2026 (843 billion dollars) but saying that the growth will be mainly in labels and packaging so commercial print will hence not grow.

Best regards and hope to see you in Vaasa!