Publishing Market Update; Vol. 3, Issue 12

The Christmas shopping season is here—with not a bang, but a whimper. But more on that later. 

Dohle-d Out!

From the “Didn’t See That Coming” file, Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle shocked much, if not all, of the industry, abruptly announcing his departure from the apex publisher effective at the end of 2022.  He did oversee the company during the very long and enormously expensive—yet failed—effort to acquire fellow Big 5 competitor, Simon & Schuster. But that sure didn’t seem like something people were blaming on Dohle.

S&S parent, Paramount, did decide to take their $200 million ball and go home—in the form of the negotiated kill fee due if PRH was unable to affect a closure of the deal in two years. In theory, that puts one of the publishing industry’s crown jewels back on the auction block. But with the Justice Department’s trust-busting win last month, it’s hard to see any competing publishers trying to buy where PRH failed.  If they are big enough to fund a $2 billion (or more) acquisition, the DoJ would almost certainly shut it down, using the PRH case as clear a precedent as may have ever existed in the law. And with the economy in general, and the publishing industry in particular, slowing down, it’s not an attractive investment for Wall Street.

Someone wanna DM Elon Musk?

Bah Humbug!

The Association of American Publishers reported year-to-date numbers through September 2022 as off by 4.5% industry-wide when compared to the same period in 2021.  Included in that number was a drop of 6.1% for religious titles. Time to cancel Christmas?!

And about Christmas, our friends at NPD BookScan came up short on holiday cheer, reporting that the first 4 weeks of the holiday season – which somehow starts in October now?! – are down 10% in units and 8% in dollars, as consumer confidence appears rocky.  September and October 2022 were the first consecutive down months since 2019 (which, mind you, includes the 45-Days-To-Stop-the-Spread Spring of 2020).  

But, for you optimists out there, the industry is still tracking 14% ahead of pre-pandemic 2019.  And our brick and mortar bookstore colleagues are up 8.5% over last year, and within a percentage point of 2019 sales.  

Sorry, But Yes, More Amazon News

Last month, the Update reported that the online retail giant was projecting slower growth for the balance of the year.  Well, to that end, this month Amazon announced an unspecified number of layoffs in its Devices and Books division, as well as in the People, Experiences, and Technology section.  Details were thin, but any news like that from the industry’s lead sales channel ain’t good.

Weekly Numbers

Here are the weekly results for November (brace yourselves):

          Week ended November 5, 2022:   Down 14.9%

          Week ended November 12, 2022:  Down 17.1%

          Week ended November 19, 2022:  Down 16.7%

          Week ended November 26, 2022:  Down 10.3% (Thanksgiving week: incl. Black Friday and Small Business Saturday)

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Merry Christmas!


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