The sixth annual Distripress Circulation Monitor, undertaken by Wessenden, gathers global data and polls the views of 85 international supply chain players to map a changing press distribution world.

The long view

Year by year, the Distripress Circulation Monitor has tracked a rapidly changing industry…..

  • In 2014, the business was getting to grips with the prospect of terminal decline.
  • In 2015, the mood had moved on from despair and denial regarding what was happening to a grim determination to face up to all the challenges.
  • In 2016, there was much more optimism evident, as companies were testing new business models and finding a way forward.
  • In 2017, the pressures which had been building up over previous years exploded into the open. The result was a series of company closures, mergers, acquisitions and consolidation, together with some unexpected partnerships. Both business confidence and business performance among Distripress members were falling.
  • In 2018, confidence began to recover, with the underlying business indicators looking a little more robust and Distripress members thinking more creatively and positively at the potential for opportunity in the ongoing changes.
  • Now in 2019, the market is tough, fast-moving and massively disruptive. Confidence and business performance within the press industry are both down. Yet global industry averages conceal hotspots of opportunity and operational excellence. This means that the brave and the agile can still survive and prosper.

3 big numbers

Three big numbers put the industry in a bigger context

US$182 billion. The combined global revenues of N&M in 2019, making it one of the biggest media sectors ahead of Consumer Books, Music, Video Games, Radio or Cinema.

91%. The percentage of global N&M circulation revenues still accounted for by print.

6%. The percentage of global press sales that are cross-border – a specialist, but significant global business.

Hotspots & black holes

Even though the long-term trends are down, the report identifies hotspots of opportunity, both geographically and by market sector. The global picture is that all market sectors are dropping in terms of current year-on-year sales trends, but they fall into three broad tiers:

  • Tier 1: Overall global decline, but with local hotspots of growth in specific territories (e.g. Children’s & Teens, Puzzles, Food & Wine).
  • Tier 2: Sharper global decline, but with specific territories where sales are stable (e.g. General Interest, Automotive, Women’s Weeklies).
  • Tier 3: Serious and widespread decline (e.g. Adult, Computing & Computer Games, Men’s Lifestyle).

Key conclusions

The world of press distribution remains very tough – tougher than last year according to a number of the key metrics. In addition, the pace of change is accelerating. Yet there seems to be a greater acceptance of this and a more proactive and creative approach to managing the turbulence.

Embracing the “pop-up” mentality is a clear theme: being able to operate at speed and gearing up to running tactical, one-off activities at the same time as developing more strategic areas which require investment and longer-term planning.

Yet there is a real concern about investment for the future. In the current climate of grinding cost control, building tech capability and investing in staff are two critical areas that appear to be slipping down the priority list.

There are also signs that the gap between Publishers and the other links in the supply chain is growing. In terms of what to do next, Publishers are focusing more than ever on digital and subscription models. Meanwhile, Wholesalers & Distributors are becoming more varied and radical in their diversification plans, but also more resigned to the ongoing reduction in the established retail universe. As a result, there are clear calls for all the links in the supply chain to work more closely together to drive changes that may be much more fundamental and radical than ever considered before.

A growing factor, and a new area tracked in the DCM itself, is the politics of N&M: increasing political interference in the production and distribution of content at the same time as a growing concern among politicians that quality journalism and content curation are essential elements of a free society, but that they are expensive activities that might need more State support. The public funding of private media is a complex and political subject in its own right, but increasingly important and one which would benefit from the coordinated contribution of the various links in the supply chain.

Distripress is a non-profit making trade association established in 1955 to support and promote the global circulation and distribution of press products (newspapers and magazines) in print and digital format.  Its members are publishers, printers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers, plus complementary product and service providers, all engaged in the end-to-end press supply chain. The global community has over 220 members in 60+ countries and meets once a year at the annual Congress event.


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