Australian publishers feeling the squeeze as mills talk rationing

Nov 15, 2021 at 08:49 pm by admin

Fears of newsprint price hikes of 30-40 per cent have prompted talk of more cuts for Australian publishers.

Nine Entertainment’s Zoe Samios has reported in the group’s Sydney Morning Herald that the fate of regional publishers “could be in the hands” of paper supplier Norske Skog as it talked of price increases of more than 30 per cent.

Paper mills globally have engineered a demand market by closing mills and turning newsprint machines over to other products. In Australasia, dominant Norwegian-owned Norske Skog has shut the Albury newsprint mill – once owned by publishers – its Tasman mill in Kawerau, New Zealand, and converted a machine at its Boyer mill in Hobart to mechanical grades.

Zamios says some of Australia’s newspaper publishers and print suppliers have been told rates will increase by between 30-40 per cent “due to rising electricity prices and high costs of freight shipping”, while smaller users have been warned their supplies may be limited.

European-made grades are still used for some published products in ANZ – such as catalogues and magazines – but most of the world’s mill owners have moved out of newsprint to packaging stocks or other products. At the European Printers Summit in Frankfurt last month, the owner of Palm Paper Dr Wolfgang Palm told GXpress he expected the next two-to-three years would see Europe served by only two companies, UPM and his own. Palm produces up to 400,000 tonnes of newsprint a year at a modern mill in King's Lynn, UK, opened in 2010.

For publishers in Australia and New Zealand, the costs of shipping and transport have typically priced imported newsprint out of the market, but reduced demand and supply have changed its dynamics.

Samios quotes Antony Catalano, executive chairman of regional publisher Australian Community Media, who said it was “staggering” any organisation would think it was appropriate to implement the reported increases (between 30 to 40 per cent) when the industry had endured such difficult economic conditions.

Both ACM and News Corp Australia have cut production of printed newspapers since the pandemic, temporarily closing regional and suburban print editions, some of them altogether. Samios says “publishing sources” had warned of increased cover prices and advertising rates, and further impacts on frequency and pagination.

Sources within Nine Entertainment told her that while they were taking the matter seriously, they did not believe the increases “would affect its commitment to printing newspapers in any way”. Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review are all printed for it by News Corp.

Samios said sources in both Nine and News Corp – which did not comment – expressed concerns over the proposed price hike, which could be implemented within as little as four weeks.

Pictured: The Tasman mill in Kawerau, which closed in June

Sections: Print business


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