30 March 2020 16:19

MediAvataar's News Desk

MediAvataar's News Desk

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To debunk a myth that continues to circulate, INMA looked at the scientific research behind surface-based transmission of the coronavirus — notably newsprint and paper products.

The evidence is overwhelming: no transmissions, porous surfaces are safe, and newsprint is safest because of the sterility of ink and paper processes. Beyond this, publishers are taking delivery precautions.

There has never been a documented incident whereby the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted from a print newspaper, print magazine, print letter, or print package, according to the world’s top doctors and scientists.

In recent days, the International News Media Association (INMA) has received a few inquiries about this scientific possibility — to which we cited World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on the matter. Yet the unprecedented global pandemic naturally breeds a paranoia about everything we touch, so let me present to you what INMA knows on this subject.

This article distills research and guidance from four sources that debunk concerns:

World Health Organization (WHO).

The Journal of Hospital Infection.

National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIH).

John Innes Centre (MP3).

We will augment this research with secondary sources and our own member publisher feedback to conclude that newsprint is a safe surface in the current crisis.

ABP’s Telegraph in Calcutta, India, produces an advertisement showing the safety measures — from production to distribution to street sales — being undertaken to ensure print is safe for readers.

What scientific research shows

Here is what the WHO says about whether it’s safe to receive a package from an area where COVID-19 as been reported: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperate is also low.”

Hartford Healthcare put it more bluntly: “Don’t worry about deliveries to your house. Coronaviruses don’t last long on objects.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says “it may be possible” for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

The WHO and CDC statements sound like a hedging of the unknown — fair enough in these times. Yet the fact remains there have been no incidents of transmission on print materials.

A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UCLA, and Princeton University scientists published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the varying stability of the coronavirus on different surfaces. Across aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard, the lowest levels of coronavirus transmission possibilities were via copper because of its atomic makeup and cardboard — presumably because of its porous nature. (The Economist has a fantastic graphic illustrating this study.)

Emphasising that the virus spreads when transmitted by aerosols, researchers duplicated these droplets and measured how long they stayed infectious on surfaces.

The coronavirus lasts longest on smooth, non-porous surfaces. Researchers found the virus was still viable after three days on plastic and stainless steel. Researchers say that is not as ominous as it sounds since the virus’ strength declines rapidly when exposed to air. Because the virus loses half its potency every 66 minutes, it is only one-eighth as infectious after three hours when it first landed on a surface. Six hours later, viability is only 2% of the original, researchers found.

The virus was not viable after 24 hours on cardboard — and the good news here, like plastic and stainless steel, is lower and lower potency when exposed to air.

For newsprint, which is much more porous than cardboard, virus viability is presumably even shorter.

In a March 13 Washington Post article, author Joel Achenbach put last week’s study in human terms:

“Outside, on an inanimate surface, the virus will gradually lose the ability to be an infectious agent. It may dry out, for example. It can degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A person sneezing on a surface may deposit many thousands of virus participles, and some may remain viable for days. Still, the likelihood of a person who comes into contact with the remnants of that sneeze goes down over time, because most infections are the result of a large viral load.

Cornell University infectious disease expert Gary Whittaker told The Post it typically takes “an army of viruses going in” to break through the natural defenses of a human being — meaning surface transmission is a low likelihood of transmission.

In a March 10 interview on BBC Radio Scotland, John Innes Centre virologist George Lomonossoff, who uses molecular biology to understand the assembly and properties of viruses in the United Kingdom, debunked the idea of transmission through newsprint: “Newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through. Traditionally, people have eaten fish and chips out of them for that very reason. So all of the ink and the print makes them actually quite sterile. The chances of that are infinitesimal.”

How publishers are reacting and communicating

News publishers are reacting in different ways to concerns — expressed or unexpressed — about newsprint:

Home delivery: On a basic level, they are providing hand sanitizer and wipes to home delivery staff and leaving newspapers outside of buildings.

Single-copy distributors: I’m hearing stories of publishers providing gloves, masks, and sanitizers to newsstands, distributors, and street sellers ostensibly for the protection of its workers — yet I suspect equally to reassure the public when buying print newspapers and magazines.

Notices about print processes: The Wall Street Journal put a fixture in its print edition starting this week referencing its paper production process is mostly automated and the risk is low.

Don’t forget our replica: Out of an abundance of caution, publishers are emphasising their digital replica services for those still worried about newsprint — something already being promoted to hotels.

Plastic polybagging: One interesting tidbit emanating from this topic is plastic polybagging. While many publishers have been reducing plastic in recent years, plastic may be necessary for good quality home delivery in some markets. Again, there are no examples of plastic carrying the virus.

In other words, in addition to the scientific research about porous surfaces and the particular sterility of newsprint, publishers are taking extra steps to ensure print newspapers are touched by no unprotected hands by the time the product reaches the customer.

What’s not clear to me is whether it’s best to proactively communicate to customers this “non-transmission via print” news. There are a few incidents of publishers sending reassuring communications to readers — only to see cancelled print subscriptions as a result. I can only assume that readers had never thought about transmission until the publisher brought it up. Instead, I’m hearing publishers developing talking points for when readers ask about print transmission.


All scientific evidence suggests porous paper surfaces, to which we include newsprint, are safe from the coronavirus:

There has never been a reported incident of COVID-19 being transmitted via newsprint.

The early scientific research on virus transmission to inanimate surfaces suggests porous surfaces carry the lowest potency for the shortest period of time.

Newspapers are even more sterile because of the ink and the printing process they go through.

Publishers are protecting customers through health and safety precautions at printing plants, distribution centers, newsstands, and home delivery.

We suggest these be talking points distributed to media company staffs as customers inquire. Be careful of elevating these points that might inadvertently create fears where none are warranted by the scientific evidence.


Written by Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA.


Let’s not go by rumour mills and fear mongers. The newspaper delivered to your home is safe. And this fact is endorsed by several reputable authorities.

WHO, perhaps the organisation in the best position to comment on the matter has stated that couriers or packages delivered to homes (and that would include newspapers) carry a very low risk of infection even if they come from an infected zone!

“it is safe to receive a package even from an area where COVID – 19 has been reported.” In their release, they’ve further state that “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low”

Eminent doctors and leading virologists of India have stated categorically that newspapers delivered to your home are safe.

The government itself which has put the country in a lockdown have maintained that newspapers are an essential service and plays a positive role in disseminating authentic information and updates on the epidemic.

Despite the assurances from medical and other authorities certifying the newspaper delivered to homes as safe, we as the publishers continue to take extraordinary precautions to avoid infection under any circumstances.

Our plants are fully automated so the risk of infection is zero. The transportation and handling right up to the depot is done in fumigated trucks by masked and gloved handlers.

The vendor community is acutely aware of the dangers of infection not only to themselves but to the readers they cater to. With the help of the publishing community, they are taking extraordinary precautions themselves. They are turning back any delivery boy who has any symptoms like cold, cough or fever. They are using sanitizers liberally as also gloves and masks wherever they are available.

We are confident that the product we deliver is safe and we encourage our readers to enjoy their daily read with confidence.

Content partnership examines mobility, creativity and the impact of Industry 4.0 on the future of work

HP and its media agency, PHD, have partnered with VICE and The Economist to produce a content series entitled ‘Future X’, exploring the trends shaping the workforce and work styles of the future. Live on VICE in Singapore, Australia, Korea and India, the series will bring together professionals from various industries and HP, as well as leading digital evangelists to discuss how technology can transform experiences for the future workforce and enable them to succeed in the digital economy.

Recognising that today’s professionals – be it employees or business leaders – are facing constant changes, such as the move away from traditional working hours and the introduction of remote working, technology companies have advanced their product lines accordingly. The introduction of ultra-light laptops allows MNCs, SMBs and start-ups across the globe drive flexible, mobile and collaborative working practices to attract and retain the next generation of employees. As such, HP’s ‘Future X’ provides businesses with relevant insights and thought-provoking discussions that can help predict the future of work, from both an employer and employee’s perspective.

Commenting on the launch, Emma Richards, HP’s Communications Lead, Asia, says: “The Future X content series is a fantastic way to elevate transformational thought leadership and evolve the ongoing dialogue HP has been leading around the Future of Work. The partnership with VICE and The Economist will allow us to further reach our audiences and increase brand and product awareness in a highly engaged yet non-invasive manner. Ultimately, this partnership will strengthen our position and demonstrate how technology can empower the workforce.”

Rachelle Hansen, Business Director on the HP business at PHD Singapore, adds: ‘’We enjoy a very collaborative relationship with HP. This campaign was the result of great thinking and partnerships coming to life to create a unique, curated experience for their audience. We wanted to engage the best audiences, in the right context, showcasing the product’s features and HP’s commitment to helping shape the future practices of workforces.’’

The ongoing battle against COVID-19 has become a mission statement for everyone at the personal and community levels.

During this unprecedented crisis, iTV network aims at working together to protect its employees, their families and our communities. To minimise the risk of an employee contracting COVID-19 at the workplace, iTV network has ensured equal detailing and planning to provide a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, including access to

- Facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of hand sanitizers face masks, soap and water.

- Implemented 'Work from Home' policy for 50% of their staff as part of encouraging social distancing to curb spreading of Coronavirus infections.

- Desks and Studios are sanitised and sterilised daily thrice a day (including electrostatic spray & ultra violet treatment for various surfaces)

- Once-in-Once-out policy in office building.

- All vehicles are sanitised daily and no staff to use public transport.

- Technology teams enabling at-home access.

- No guests in studios, all remote live.

- Two-meter distancing between the working stations.

- Reporters self-recording on phone.

- Meetings through video conference and other audio visual means.

- All administration staff working from home.

- Limited access to the workplace by other people, unless necessary.

As always, iTV network is dedicated to build bridges across masses, cinema, singers, cricketers, businesses, communities and nations striving to bring togetherness in these tumultuous times.

#StayAtHome and #GharParRahe initiative is a gesture to thank all those men and women who are out there and contributing their bit in the fight against COVID 19.

India News has launched a slew of new shows and has ramped up the existing ones on educating people on Coronavirus which contains safety tips and authoritative information about the pandemic. India news is airing special shows viz.- ‘Sabse Bada Deshbhakt’, ‘Corona Warriors’, ‘Corona Se Jung’ and ‘Corona report’ covering the aspects of encouraging people to stay at home and also thank Corona warriors.

Kartikeya Sharma, Founder and Promoter of iTV Network, said, _“It is a time, when the entire humanity must come together and take responsibility to do their part in controlling the spread of the disease. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.”_

iTV network is very thankful to our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and the government, who are trying day and night to curb Corona virus and taking all the right measures to control it. Our heartfelt gratitude also goes out to the general public who directly or indirectly are out there and helping us by fighting corona.

The current crisis is a far cry from the Great Recession but there are things we have learned that are applicable when trying to figure out how to protect brands, businesses and livelihoods. In this post I have listed a few things that brands should do during the crisis and which will help preserve the brand’s standing for the longer-term.

Tactically, decisions will need to be made on a brand-by-brand basis. There are some brands that will have little option but to curtail expenditures and batten down the hatches and hope they can ride out the storm: airlines, casual dining, department stores and more. Survival will depend as much on debt load as brand equity, but once things start to return to normal, we can expect the stronger brands to bounce back faster, particularly if weaker companies did not make it.

However, there will be many categories that are relatively unaffected. For instance, I read that in the U.S. the market for pet food supplies is relatively resistant to economic downturns because people would rather save money on things for themselves than for their pets. However, companies operating in that category are undoubtedly gearing up for an increase in online sales as people self-isolate.

If your brand is one of the relatively unaffected categories, the question becomes how should we respond to the crisis? I believe that companies which are seen to put the needs of people first and their bottom line second may take a short-term financial hit but will likely come out stronger when normalcy returns. With that in mind, here are some things that might prove helpful.

If you can do something purposeful and beneficial, do so. For example, French luxury conglomerate LVMH is converting production lines to make hand sanitiser. Actions speak louder than words, particularly when they are done in the public good and, while not the primary consideration, are likely to receive considerable press and social media coverage.

If you can alleviate the financial impact on people impacted by the virus or shut downs, do so. Many automotive companies in the U.S. have suggested they will provide payment relief to customers affected by the crisis. However, to keep sales ticking over we might also see more initiatives like Hyundai’s "Assurance" program which it launched in 2009. This allowed new-vehicle buyers or those who had leased one to return their cars for up to a year after purchase if they lost their income due to job loss.

If you can alleviate people’s concerns, do so and communicate what you are doing. My local Subaru dealer has just emailed offering a new pick-up and delivery program for when your car needs servicing. In addition, the mail details the extra steps they are taking to protect customers and their own employees. However, make sure you have something worthwhile to say, and avoid being seen as communicating for the sake of it. Check that your messaging is going to be received as intended and not considered inappropriate or irrelevant.

Self-isolated at home, people are likely to consume more TV, online, radio, and podcasts. As people will be looking to those channels for information, advice, reassurance advertisers will need to consider how their message will work in that context. To that end, do not exacerbate concerns or show behaviour that is contrary to local health authority advice on social distancing. Geico, KFC and Hershey have all suspended ads which showed undue physical contact and Axe suspended an ad where the character imagined his smelly underarms caused a crowd in a basketball arena to flee in fear. At a time when people are more sensitized than normal it makes more sense than ever to check the likely response to content before it is widely seen.

Last, but not least, do not do anything which might be construed as taking advantage of the crisis. Yes, you need to generate cash, but if your brand is seen to being doing so at people’s expense their negative memories will long outlast the crisis.


Written by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Kantar’s Insights Division.

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