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Graphics Grab: Big printers drag industry profits

Friday, 14 December 2018
By Patrick Howard

Printing is a tough game; a good industry but a hard place to make a quid, especially for large businesses.

By WhatTheyThink

Startling statistics coming out of the USA reveal that the industry makes an overall profit of 4.12% before taxes during the past 18 months. However, large printing enterprises, those with US$25+million in assets, averaged a bare 1.04% in profits for the same period. In fact they actually went backwards for a number of quarters.

Meanwhile for smaller printers, those with less than $25 million in assets, profits before taxes for the past six quarters averaged 7.41%, which is not too bad.

The people who collect the stats, What They Think, reckon the low profitability of the large printers is a long-term drag on overall industry profitability.

It’s difficult to get comparative figures for the local industry, but PMP, the largest printer in the Australian region posted a net profit after tax this year of >minus $34.8 million. The share price started 2018 at $0.51 and ended it at $0.20.

It reinforces what many printers already know, that big isn’t always better. Perhaps there is an optimum size for a profitable printing enterprise after all.

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For those of us in the business of journalism there’s little satisfaction in seeing the competition publish a typo error. Any schadenfreude will be quickly followed by making a similar stuff up.

Roxy Jacenko … Never fails to deliver.

However some are too good to let go by unmentioned. First there’s the subeditor’s nightmare in the New York Post of Julia Roberts getting better ‘holes’ as she grows older.

Closer to home, publisher Allen & Unwin, had to pulp the entire print run of Roxy’s Little Black Book of Tips and Tricks. Written by Sydney-based PR flack, Roxy Jacenko, the tome made it past six professional proofreaders to the stage where review copies were sent out before someone saw that the cover blurb said the author ‘Never fails to disappoint.’ It should, of course, have read ‘Never fails to deliver.’

The quote came from radio host Jackie O, but left Jacenko unfazed. “It’s a fuck-up, but Jackie’s a friend,” she said.

The publisher wouldn’t reveal the size of the pulped print run.

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Another straw in the wind this week with the news that Peter Coleman, well known newspaper industry identity and publisher of the authoritative GX Report will no longer print his magazine. This is a particular loss of an excellent publication. Not only does Peter write very well with an in-depth knowledge of newspapers, but printing has defined his professional life.

Peter Coleman

I first came across him as editor of Bill Minnis’ Ink magazine in the 1990s, a leading printing industry publication out of Melbourne. Before that he ran his family’s newspaper publishing and print works in the UK for many years. He grew up around Goss Community presses with printing ink in his blood.

But the newspaper industry is continuing to struggle in the internet age, with titles closing left, right and centre. Few are buying new presses and Peter bemoans the loss of Goss, his long-term foundation advertiser following its takeover by manroland.

As with many other publications there’s a virtual life after print. Sign on at www.gxpress.net

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It wasn’t always so. Newspaper professionals facing an existential battle will be chagrined at a report I came across in a file copy of Newspaper News, the Yaffa Media publication from July 1929. Under the headline; ‘British Companies’ Huge Dividends’ it reports that the rush to buy shares in newspapers is ‘one of the most remarkable features of the investment market in recent years.’

It goes on to express no surprise as it reveals The Daily Mirror made a profit of £479,529 and paid 30% per ordinary share.

Shareholders in The Sunday Pictorial did better with a dividend of no less that 25%, which pales in comparison to the Financial News, which from a profit of £93,500 paid shareholders a whopping 175% per ordinary share.

Those were the days.

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And finally… did you hear about Julius Caesar walking into a bar.

“I’ll have a martinus,” he says.

The bartender gives him a puzzled look and asks, “Don’t you mean a ‘martini’?”
“Look. If I wanted a double, I’d have asked for it!”

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