Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2016

The approach

How does the global publishing industry develop? What impact did recent changes in the media business have on the publishing houses? The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry delivers answers to these questions. Order your copy of the book here.

The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry, which has been updated every year since 2007, currently represents 52 companies that each report revenues from publishing of over 150 m€ (or 200 m US$), plus another 5 who either have not released current financial data due to being acquired, or having fallen below the threshold due to currency effects.

2 Companies have been listed by their 2014 results. Several others have aready released results for fiscal 2016. No meaningful information at all could be collected for the publishing activities of Disney and of Panini, so similar to previous years, these groups are not included.

The overall number of listed companies has shown a fluctuation between slightly over 50 to up to 60. As a consequence, a few historic observations in the analysis here below refer only to the top 50 companies, to allow more relevant comparisons.

This ranking is based, for each company, on mostly 2015 revenue data, collected from the best information available, which comes predominantly either from official company reports, or has been directly provided by the companies for this report, or if neither was possible, information has been retrieved from official company data registries.

Since 2011, a specific research effort is directed at companies in Brazil, PR China, Korea and Russia, with meaningful logistical support from sources in these countries, and has resulted in widening the scope of this report by emphasizing the dynamic developments in emerging economies.

As far as possible, this ranking is based on break downs of revenues that derive from all forms of publishing (including books, digital material, and professional information), as well as book distribution. Revenues from newspaper and magazine publishing as well as news wire services and corporate publishing have been excluded, as far as the available information allowed for making such a differentiation. However, in several cases, traditional as well as new commercial activities, and the respective financial reporting, has made it challenging to apply this definition in the strictest sense, as we would have wanted. These cases will be highlighted, and discussed in detail, in the overall analysis here below.

The Ranking has been established in Euros. Data reported in other currencies have been converted at exchange rates of December 30, 2015.


New (and old) challenges that this Global Ranking must confront

Over the years, the Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry could highlight critical developments, and driving forces, in the international book business, including notably its transformation through digital, globalization and consolidation.

These insights come at a price. When we started with that Ranking, back in 2007, we created a definition of what we want to include (book publishing, both physical and digital, scientific and professional publishing, plus distribution – understood as B2B), and what must be excluded from the revenues governing that ranking (notably revenues from retail, or B2C, newspapers, magazines, wire services and related pure business information services, as well as other media such as radio, TV, games or music).

But drawing a clear line becomes increasingly a challenge when the scope, and the value chain, of this industry are deeply changing, and its reach, business models and strategies expand in both ambitions and complexity.

While our research, for most companies in the form of direct communication with the companies, aims at the best clarity and transparency, we also must identify a significant number of examples where we confront some limits in our effort, which we want to highlight in the following.

Overall though, we strongly believe that these grey zones do not in any way flaw the portrait of the global (book) publishing business that we provide as a map and orientation for those interested in the sector.

Examples for complexities in the Global Ranking 2016

1. Companies not listed (not at all):
· Publishing activities of Disney Inc., and Panini, due to complete lack of reliable data.
· Readers’ Digest, which has been listed until 2014, underwent serial restructuring and changes of ownership, has abandoned largely the publication of books, shifting towards the magazine business, and not releasing any financial data required for this report.

2. Exchange rate effects:
Since 2014, volatility in currency markets has largely increased, impacting significantly on most currencies relevant for this report. After checking on several alternative methods (notably exchange rates at a certain date of the year vs. middle courses for each year), we opted to maintain our policy of applying the year and exchange rate for each year and each currency, to maintain consistency with previous years.

In 2015, one country has been struck particularly hard by the depreciation of its local currency, Brazil. Despite a fairly robust development, in Real, in the three companies listed in this report, their turnover converted into Euros fell below the threshold of 150 m€ / 200 m$ applied as the minimum size to be included. In view of maintaining the long term perspective both in terms of companies and markets, we opted to keep Brazil within this ranking

3. Complexities with regard to the definition of “Publishing” applied
· Format issues (notably books vs. magazines): In a number of markets, the format of a “book” is hard to confine from that of reader’s magazines. This applies notably to Mangas and related graphic novels in all Asian markets (Japan, Korea, also China). Overall, we included these publications.
· Sales channel issues (notably B2B distribution vs. retail or B2C activities): In the three big Southern European markets, in France, Spain and Italy, almost all leading publishing groups traditionally own their B2B distribution which, in a number of cases, has significantly grown and diversified in recent years (e.g. with partworks distribution through kiosks, e.g. at RCS in Italy), or online retail (e.g. Messaggerie, in Italy).
· Publishing groups in many cases also own bookshops. While we could exclude respective revenues for some (e.g. Grupo Planeta or Bonnier), this was not always possible (E.g. China Publishing Group, China South, but also, in a more limited way, Klett). France Loisir, another disputable case in this regard, was excluded from the 2016 edition of this ranking due to lacking updated information on its performance in 2015.
· Cross media activities (notably video and games production, and also apps): A growing number of publishers see content production in other (notably electronic) media than books as a natural opportunity to extend their value chain around the copyright which they control. This includes e.g. Japanese Kadokawa. But also in educational publishing, such cross media strategies are rapidly gaining in scope and importance.
· Engaging in activities connected to publishing, yet going well beyond its traditional scope (notably in educational publishing): Most leading educational (publishing, but not only) companies have chosen to reaching out beyond just selling their content to both individual customers (students, teachers, parents), and institutions (e.g. schools. governments). Instead, many work directly with often large groups of teachers (e.g. in Korea), operate their own training and educational institutions (e.g. in Korea, but also in Germany), or work closely with governments, benefiting from substantial financial grants or other forms of support (Brazil, Russia).

For all these examples, after reasonably scrutinizing each case, we opted to keeping those activities, and the attached revenues, within the scope of this Ranking. We did so for two reasons:

· In many cases, it would not have been possible, technically, to extract those revenues from the respective company reports or other information; but more importantly,
· We understand publishing to be subject to a complex transition, which is, and will continue to be, requiring a radically new assessment of not only the existing value chain, but all of the economics and the culture around publishing, reading and learning.

However, as emphasized already in earlier editions of this report, we will make such complexities as transparent as we can.

Rüdiger Wischenbart

Vienna, August 2016

Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2016

How does the global publishing industry develop? What impact did recent changes in the media business have on the publishing houses? The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry delivers answers to these questions.

Led by Livres Hebdo (France) the Ranking is published by buchreport (Germany, Switzerland, Austria), BookDao (China), The Bookseller (UK), Publishers Weekly (USA) and PublishNews (Brazil). Research: Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting (Vienna).

buchreport publishes detailed profiles of the 56 biggest international publishing houses: The „Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2016“ contains:

  • Analysis: „Global Publishing in 2015: A year of transformation“ by Rüdiger Wischenbart
  • Company Profiles
  • Key Figures from 2013 to 2015
  • Analysis of the companies' development

220 pages, 199 Euro + VAT.