Pandemic? No Problem — How the Lockdown Boosted Sales for this UK Comic Book Publisher

Is it worth it to create print magazines for young adults? If you ask the folks at UK’s Rebellion Publishing, you’ll get a firm yes — even while COVID-19 plays havoc with much of the industry.

“As newsstand sales have declined, comic sales have fallen with it – many established titles have seen print sales decline by up to 70% since their heyday in the ‘70s and early 80’s, not helped by the exponential growth of gaming and other digital channels competing for kids’ attention,” writes Jez Walters in What’s New In Publishing.

“Enter Covid-19, the final nail in the coffin for a number of comic book publishers, exacerbated by monopoly distributor Diamond shutting operations on March 23 for two entire months. When distribution re-started on May 20th, a wrecking ball had ploughed its way through the industry,” Walters continues.

Yet specialist UK publisher Rebellion Publishing, which owns the flagship weekly adventure comic 2000 AD, is thriving during the  Covid-19 lockdown.

“Although the percentage of our sales through retail is down,” explains Rebellion’s co-founder Jason Kingsley, “thanks to large chains such as WHSmiths being shut during lockdown, rather than withdraw from the newsstand or even stop printing, we instead transferred stock across to supplying traditional independent retailers which have remained open, helping the entire sector – them and us – survive the pandemic.”

On top of newsstand sales, 2000 AD has enjoyed a big uptick in subscriptions, 15% overall, plus a 94% rise on print editions from its online shop, and 56% in digital. That’s a pretty impressive uptick in engagement, and no doubt helping Rebellion thrive while other publishers — including many who may believe engaging younger readers in print isn’t worthwhile.

Kingsley adds, “Over the past ten years, we have steadily built up ways of communicating directly with our audience – through newsletters, our podcast, our social media – that has meant they have felt the advantage of that shared experience even in the separation of the lockdown. This has undoubtedly helped.”

Just more proof that staying top of mind with your audience and continuing to innovate is the key to survival in uncertain times. Well done, Rebellion, and much continued success.