Paper used to be a major consideration in print all along. The importance increased considerably in recent years, however. Not only did the printing industry experience supply shortages, also the prices increased drastically. This has a major impact on what media executives are ordering – specifically print or an electronic alternative. These shifts are usually not done on short notice, rather they need to filter through a marketing or corporate strategy. Accordingly, it is important to see where are paper prices heading in the mid term to gauge the impact.
The pandemic did show us many processes moving digital. Communication is no exception. There is a huge push to move books to digital, although there are grave disadvantages. Magazine has been a bit under the radar and the declines in circulation in many countries are known. The better to see that launches of print magazines rebounded after the pandemic slump in 2020. According to Mr Magazine, Samir Husni, U.S. print Magazine launches were doubling in 2021 compared to 2020.
What analysts and marketers like about the internet is that everything is measurable – as pointless as it may be in many cases. Yet there is a bunch of internet stats that are helpful or at least entertaining. The latter is in my view a website that analysed Google searches and looked at how popular product search terms were in the pandemic.
For the printing industry most categories are of limited interest as mostly consumer goods made it to the searched item roster. Keywords and categories were sourced from Google product taxonomy. Results are restricted to searches on Google Shopping in the US only. The analysis ranked products and their search terms into three groups.
Starting into the new year is a good time to have a look at the European print production developments in 2021. For the full revenue data to trickle in we have to wait several months – even for the first countries to report. The full data on Eurostat might be even two years out as Eurostat just about managed to publish 2019 revenues now.
The next best thing is to look at the monthly production index data published by Eurostat. Data is now available until October 2021. The best fitting category in the database is “print and reproduction of media” – with print production making up the lions share in that category. The data is based on the average 2015 volumes as being 100 index points. Starting values in the 90s for 2019 shows that print production volumes already declined before the pandemic hit in early 2020.
If something is illustrating the current shortage in paper it is the rising costs of recovered paper. The chart shows German recovered paper prices – indexed for 2015 as 100%. China, once the main destination of recovered paper closed their borders for most waste materials in 2018 – which includes most recovered paper. This sent recovered paper prices into a tailspin. The bottom was reached during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when everything came to a standstill, at about 20% of the 2015 prices.