Pre-pandemic, the only journalists interested in supply chain stories were, like me, writing for a B2B audience. But no more, because now it’s one of the hottest news topics out there. Major newspapers worldwide are across it like a rash.
Interest from heavyweight titles such as the New York Times (NYT) and the Financial Times (FT) is not surprising in itself. What is eye-catching, though, is the degree to which such papers are covering supply chain.
The NYT’s latest piece on the subject - headlined, ‘Why the supply chain broke and why it won’t be fixed any time soon’ - is prefaced with these words: “Confession: we didn’t even have a logistics beat before the pandemic. Now we do.”
It’s a similar story at the FT, which now has a dedicated Supply Chain News section on its website, and this week alone has published six supply and logistics pieces.
Even more surprising is the degree to which the more populist end of the newspaper market has been running supply chain stories. The UK’s so-called ‘red-top’ tabloids have been serving up an almost daily diet of the stuff.
Supply chain stakeholders are unlikely to be seeking out The Daily Mirror, The Daily Star or The Sun to keep abreast of supply developments. The coverage is unashamedly adjective-laden and breathless, with economic analysis itself in short supply.
‘Kick in the Wotsits, as price of crisps and snacks could skyrocket’, trumpets The Daily Star.
‘Now Pizza Hut runs out of ice cream’, The Sun warns sweet-toothed readers.
‘Christmas chaos double whammy could hit food and present deliveries’, a grim-faced Daily Mirror says.
It is also the sheer scale of supply chain content across all of these titles - both upmarket and downmarket - that is astonishing.
Using a ‘Google special operator’ search, it’s possible to find every single mention of ‘supply chain’ made by these papers since they started publishing online content, eons ago. Here’s a list of those results (with the number of supply chain mentions in brackets)
- Financial Times (98,600)
- New York Times (45,300)
- The Sun (5,030)
- The Daily Mirror (3,330)
- The Daily Star (2,020)
What’s noticeable is that the period 2019-present dominates results across the board. You have to dig very deep to find pre-pandemic mentions of supply chain.
This phenomenon - of supply chain drawing deep interest from mainstream media - has not gone unnoticed by supply chain professionals.
Yesterday (November 11), FreightWaves - a leading logistics forecaster - held an online event at which NYT tech reporter, Mike Isaac, delivered a keynote on this very subject.
Isaac, who joined the NYT in 2014, told his audience that it’s normal for mainstream media to take longer to respond to potentially significant events than smaller B2B media outlets, whose focus is on a particular industry or sector.
Isaac said we are long past that tipping point: “The pandemic has ruined everything, including supply chains. It’s been a global problem for over a year now.”
When the mainstream media did finally join the party, Isaac said he was left thinking, “Oh, welcome to what I’ve been writing for months.”
I know how he feels, and I’ve been in supply chain barely a fortnight.