In his first major public appearance since the £2.4bn merger of Penguin and Random House in July, chief executive Markus Dohle said that print would always be an important part of the publisher’s business.
Dohle said: “Our basic strategic assumption is that print will always be important, always—not in 50 years or 100 years—always. And our digital business is of course [growing].
“That is a very simple, but very important assumption. We are basically saying that even 100 years from now, the print business will be a big chunk of our business. It may be 70% percent. Today it’s 80% print and 20% digital.
“The buzz here at the fair is 95% digital and 5% print. But I think there is a clear misunderstanding. 80% is actually print today, and in our two biggest markets, North America and the U.K. the growth rates of digital are sort of flattening out a bit.”
Dohle went on to explain that in the US and UK, digital sales had started to plateau at around 25% share. “I think it’s quite surprising. But we’ve always believed in print and we feel more encouraged and inspired as ever to invest in print because it will matter always,” he added.
“So, we strongly believe that print will always be a big chunk of our business and it doesn’t really matter whether we end up at 50% in the new world balance, at 60% percent, at 40% or whatever.
“That means that we will continue to invest in our print business heavily. We are not running away. We call it our zig-zag strategy. While many publishers run away from print, we continue to invest in print: While everybody goes zig, we go zag.”
Dohle said that all publishers were making “important strategic calls” in a “rapidly changing market environment” and that those decisions would create new competitive advantages going forward. “We want to create competitive advantages in print and in digital,” he added.
Publishers Weekly has published a full transcript of Dohle’s comments here.