Publishers Aren’t Taking the Pandemic Lying Down

Think the digital disruption was tough on publishers? According to FIPP president and CEO James Hewes, the pandemic represents an even greater shakeup.

“The coronavirus crisis represents the biggest opportunity – and biggest challenge – for our industry in 75 years,” Hewes writes in this FIPP special report “Publishing during a pandemic: Mapping a path through the Covid-19 crisis.”

“The rapid changes that we’re seeing in the way that consumers access our content is accelerating many of the trends that we had been seeing for many years,” he continues. “Our response will determine the shape of the industry for decades to come.”

I don’t believe he is being hyperbolic; the challenges are significant and we don’t know the end result of this extended period of weirdness. So it’s great to have this report, containing insights from more than 20 industry insiders and publishing executives.

First and foremost in the report is the fact that consumers are craving content; they’ve binged themselves silly and now they are looking for something of substance, something that speaks to their passions.

“A weekly Covid-19 tracking study by global media and marketing services company Mindshare found that nearly half (46 percent) of American consumers have run out of media content to watch, read or listen to by the end of April,” the report notes. “This was up from 33 percent by mid-April and 20 percent at the end of March.”

Magazine publishers are perfectly positioned to fill this gap, especially lifestyle publications and trusted news sources.

“Our kids portfolio had been suffering a lot before the virus,” explained Nation Geographic’s Yulia Boyle, “but now that people are looking for trusted resources, our online orders are up 38 percent.”

Challenges persist, especially in newsstand distribution, as an initial uptick at the beginning of the pandemic has dropped. Yet subscriptions are strong for many titles.

“It’s 100% across a lot of areas,” says Tum Hudson of Immediate Media. While it’s not completely mitigating the newsstand drops, “it is a very bright part of the business.”

As we are all subscribers now in our Amazon Prime / Disney / Netflix consumption habits, this bodes well for subscription models post-pandemic as well. The FIPP report offers a wealth of insights and good ideas on how to manage the latest iteration of publishing. As always, it starts with understanding your audience, listening to their needs and delivering the exceptional content your brand is valued for.