A coronavirus bump?

The coronavirus and the resulting lockdown have thrown up enormous challenges to the publishing sector. But there are opportunities too…

By James Evelegh

A coronavirus bump?
Photograph: John Cameron on Unsplash

In 2016, the election of Donald Trump as US president resulted in subscription spikes for newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. His attacks on mainstream media were like marketing gold dust for credible news organisations.

This ‘Trump bump’ has proved hugely profitable for these and other titles, to the extent that they’ll probably experience conflicting emotions if he loses the November election.

Could the coronavirus pandemic result in something similar?

It’s now been a month since lockdown started and trends are beginning to emerge. Some publishers are reporting enormous increases in subscriptions (paid and trial, print and digital) and website traffic.

We live in the attention economy and the pandemic has suddenly meant that there is a lot more attention to go round. People need to fill their days and are demanding credible information and quality entertainment.

If publishers can double-down on these substantial opportunities, through innovative marketing and distribution alongside enhancements to the digital user experience, then there’s every chance that they’ll see a lasting positive impact long after the pandemic has passed.

Clearly, the lockdown has resulted in challenges to some important revenue streams, like advertising, in-person events and newsstand sales. With the possible exception of certain advertising sectors, there will be no coronavirus bump in these areas, although outside-the-box thinking should keep them ticking over, and ready to bounce back.

We’ve just started a new series of interviews with senior figures in the publishing sector to see how their companies are coping with the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus. The first one, published yesterday and featured below, was an interview with Reid Holland, chief consumer revenue officer for Hearst. It’s well worth a read.

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