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April 7, 2020

April 7, 2020

Publishing News

Economist Taps Chief Product Officer from CNBC
TalkingBizNews: "The Economist Group has named Deep Bagchee of CNBC as chief product officer.In his new role, Bagchee will be overseeing product management for all digital offerings across The Economist Group’s businesses, including The Economist and the Economist Intelligence Unit. He will also lead the product, analytics and customer experience teams that will provide objective insight into customer and market need... Bagchee will be joining at the end of this month and will relocate to London... Bagchee will be joining at the end of this month and will relocate to London. Bagchee joins from CNBC where he most recently was senior vice president of product and technology. Before that, he was VP of product at CNBC Digital. He was also the managing digital editor and head of digital for CNBC International. Before joining CNBC, he was a producer for Bloomberg TV in New York."

Atlantic's COVID Coverage Spurs Digital Sub Surge
Nieman Lab: "The Atlantic had a very good March. In an email to his staff, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced: "We have never, in the 163-year history of this magazine, had an audience like we had in March: 87M unique visitors to our site, and more than 168M pageviews. The number of unique visitors is astonishing — more than double the previous one-month record. But the most notable statistic, the one with possibly the greatest salience for The Atlantic’s future, is this: Your work has brought in more than 36,000 new subscribers over the past four weeks, even as we have lifted paywall restrictions on our coronavirus coverage." Those traffic numbers are very impressive. To put them in context, 87M uniques is not far off what The New York Times (118M in January, per Comscore), Fox News (104M), The Washington Post (92M), or the Daily Mail (89M) might get in a normal, non-COVID-19 month. (The Atlantic’s media kit cites 33.7M uniques as of March 2019.) But it really is that “36,000 new subscribers” number that truly stands out. There are news sites in The Atlantic’s peer group that would be thrilled with 36,000 digital subscribers period, much less added in a single virus-wrecked month. The Atlantic relaunched its metered paywall last September. Readers are given five free articles per month before being asked to choose an annual subscription option: $49.99 for digital access, $59.99 for digital and a print subscription, or $100 for a “premium” option that includes print and digital, ad-free browsing, and other member perks. (The premium option absorbed “The Masthead,” a membership option designed for “die hards”)…"

Book Industry Sales Up 3.7% in January
PW: "The publishing industry had a small sales increase in January 2020 compared to the first month of 2019, according to figures released by the Association of American Publishers as part of its StatShot program. The industry’ results, however, will certainly take a downward turn when March results are released later this year and the impact of the new coronavirus begins to be reflected in the results. Sales from the 1,361 publishers who reported data to AAP were up 3.7% over 2019. In the trade segments, sales of adult books rose 0.6% over January 2019, while sales in the children/young adult category rose 7.3% from reporting publishers. In adult trade, mass market paperback sales fell 20.5% in the month, and sales of hardcovers were down 4.4%. Downloadable audio sales increased 14.3%, a solid gain but at a somewhat slower pace than the format has enjoyed in recent years. Downloadable audio accounted for 12% of adult sales in January 2020 compared to 11% in January 2019. Trade paperback sales rose 8.1%. The AAP added audio to the children/YA category for the first time in 2020. Sales of the format increased 16.4% in January over 2019, accounting for 2.5% of category sales. Board books had the largest increase in the month, up 12.3%. All publisher segments had sales increases in January, led by university presses, where sales were up 40%, and the religious category, which had a 13.9% increase."

Longtime Enquirer Editor, AMI Edit Chief Dylan Howard Exits
NY Post: "Dylan Howard, the National Enquirer editor who was caught in a hush-money scheme to silence women who claimed they had affairs with President Trump, has reportedly left the supermarket tabloid’s parent company, American Media Inc. Howard — an 11-year veteran at American Media who in 2014 was promoted to chief content officer — left when his contract expired on March 31, according to Variety, which first reported the news... Howard also was alleged in the Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Catch and Kill” to have helped disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein dig up dirt on his accusers. Howard threatened, but never actually filed, a lawsuit after the book was published. American Media, which also publishes US Weekly, Star magazine and other titles, declined to comment on Howard’s reported departure... Howard did not return emails and calls from Media Ink. 
As Media Ink first reported, Howard was sidelined in early 2019 after he was accused by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos of trying to blackmail him...

Big Book Publishers Saw Mixed Results in 2019
PW: "Penguin Random House was the only one of the five companies to post an increase in sales and earnings in the U.S. last year compared to 2018, though Hachette Book Group had a profit improvement despite a 1% decline in revenue... The 1% sales decline at Haachette Book Group was due to unfavorable comparisons with 2018, when the company benefitted from strong sales of The President Is Missing and Every Breath... Revenue at HarperCollins fell 6.4% in 2019, and profits declined 22%... The decline in sales and earnings at Simon & Schuster was due in part to a weak fourth quarter, when revenue dropped 29% compared to the final period of 2018. S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy had been concerned about difficult comparisons to 2018, when Fear by Bob Woodward was a big holiday seller, and her concerns were justified... A soft fourth quarter was a significant factor in dropping revenue at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media by 9.9% in 2019. HMH blamed the sales decline in the year mainly on a drop in licensing income"...


Retail News

Grocery Workers Starting to Die
Washington Post: "Major supermarket chains are beginning to report their first coronavirus-related employee deaths, leading to store closures and increasing anxiety among grocery workers as the pandemic intensifies across the country. A Trader Joe’s worker in Scarsdale, N.Y., a greeter at a Giant store in Largo, Md., and two Walmart employees from the same Chicago-area store have died of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, in recent days, the companies confirmed Monday. Though more than 40 states have ordered nonessential businesses to close and told residents to stay home to stem the spread of the virus, supermarkets are among the retailers that remain open. Thousands of grocery employees have continued to report to work as U.S. infections and death rates continue to climb, with many reporting long shifts and extra workloads to keep up with spiking demand. Many workers say they don’t have enough protective gear to deal with hundreds of customers a day. Dozens of grocery workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. Industry experts say the rise of worker infections and deaths will likely have a ripple effect on grocers’ ability to retain and add new workers at a time when they’re looking to rapidly hire thousands of temporary employees. Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, is hiring 150,000 workers, while Kroger is adding more than 10,000. Many are offering an extra $2 an hour and promising masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. But finding people willing to work on the front lines for little more than the minimum wage could be an increasingly tough sell, according to supermarket analyst Phil Lempert. “One of the biggest mistakes supermarkets made early on was not allowing employees to wear masks and gloves the way they wanted to,” he said. “They’re starting to become proactive now, but it’s still going to be much tougher to hire hundreds of thousands of new workers. We’re going to start seeing people say, ‘I’ll just stay unemployed instead of risking my life for a temporary job.’ "Some companies have begun installing plexiglass sneeze guards at cash registers and requiring customers to stand six feet apart in line. The country’s two largest grocers, Walmart and Kroger, are beginning to check employees’ temperatures at the beginning of each shift and will provide workers with gloves and masks. The added precautions come amid a wave of strikes and petitions aimed at getting employers like Amazon, Trader Joe’s and the grocery delivery service Instacart, to take additional steps to protect workers. Those efforts are likely to take on new urgency, analysts said, as supermarket workers across the country begin to see colleagues fall ill from covid-19. More than 356,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, and nearly 10,500 have died. A Trader Joe’s employee with underlying health conditions died of covid-19 early Monday morning, spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said. The Scarsdale, N.Y., store where the employee worked is closed until Thursday to give workers “time to process and grieve,” Friend-Daniel said in an email. Employees will continue to be paid during the closure and will receive an additional two days of paid leave, she said... In Illinois, Walmart employees Phillip Thomas, 48, and Wando Evans, 51, both of whom worked at a store in Evergreen Park near Chicago, died in late March, according to labor advocacy group United for Respect"... [See item below.]

Walmart Sued Over Employee's Coronavirus Death
MarketWatch: "The estate of a Walmart worker who died of coronavirus is suing the retailer, alleging it failed to provide workers with protective masks and gloves, failed to suitably disinfect the store and failed to be straight up with workers about the risks they faced.Wando Evans, a 51-year-old man who was a Walmart associate for 15 years, died March 25 as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Four days later, another co-worker at the Evergreen Park, Ill. store died from complications about the virus. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday, Evans’ estate alleges that the blame lies with Walmart. Walmart management didn’t warn Evans and others “that various individuals were experiencing symptoms at the store and may have been infected by COVID-19 which was present and active within in the store,” the lawsuit said.Evans was healthy man, according to his estate’s attorney, Tony Kalogerakos of Lincolnwood, Il. The deaths could have been “avoided if [management] was more transparent with teammates and customers,” Kalogerakos told MarketWatch. The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed in Circuit Court of Cook County. Walmart said it was taking the allegations seriously. “We are heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store and we are mourning along with their families. While neither associate had been at the store in more than a week, we took action to reinforce our cleaning and sanitizing measures, which include a deep-cleaning of key areas,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement.The store then passed a third-party safety assessment, but Walmart also used an outside company to give an extra cleaning to high-traffic areas in the store, Hargrove said.On March 31, Walmart said it would start taking workers’ temperatures as a precaution and will be getting masks and gloves for staff.Walmart is planning to hire another 150,000 workers to keep up with demand. But the lawsuit from Evans’ estate alleges the retailer quickly hired new employees over the phone or through other “remote means” without checking if new workers might have COVID-19. The massive retailer has been adding extra cleaning steps, installing sneeze guards at registers, limiting the amount of customers in a store at any one time and putting decals on the floor to remind shoppers about social distancing rules, Hargrove said.There were 12,262 confirmed cases in Illinois and 307 deaths as of Monday, according to numbers from the state’s health authorities. There were 356,942 confirmed cases and 10,524 deaths in the U.S. as of Monday evening, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University"....

Kroger, Giant Try Store Capacity Limits, One-Way Aisles
PG: "The Kroger Co. will be limiting the number of people allowed in stores and experimenting with one-way aisles to extend the distance between shoppers. The grocery chain announced Monday that its nearly 2,800 stores would be limiting capacity by half, and only allowing entry to a restricted number of people based on each store’s square footage. "By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we will be able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates," said Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief technology and digital officer.Kroger's new customer capacity limits join other measures the retailer has established over the last few weeks to promote physical distancing, including the addition of plexiglass partitions and educational floor decals and airing of a healthy habits message via in-store radio to encourage customers to practice good hygiene and spatial awareness. Kroger is also testing one-way aisles in some locations to keep shoppers socially distanced during the COVID-19 outbreak... Separately, D.C. regional grocery chain Giant Foods announced store capacity limits and one-way aisles are being put into effect across all of its stores...

Online Grocery Delivery Services Struggling to Keep Up
AP (London): "The coronavirus crisis is giving the e-commerce industry a boost but troubles at Ocado and other online grocers highlight how hard it is for the industry to quickly scale up online delivery.In the U.S., grocery shopping had only been slowly migrating online, making up 3% of the food retail market, according to a report last year by Deutsche Bank.As the crisis hit, delivery orders surged as millions of Americans stayed home. During the week of March 2, even before some cities and states imposed “stay at home” orders, Instacart, Amazon, and Walmart grocery delivery sales all jumped by at least two-thirds from the year before, according to Earnest Research. Instacart, a platform that partners with more than 25,000 stores in North America, says orders in more recent weeks have surged 150%.As a result, customers in hard-hit New York City are waiting days to schedule deliveries that usually take just hours"...


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