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Lessons from the pandemic

We pay one more visit to last November’s PPA Independent Publisher Conference to listen to Juan Señor’s excellent keynote.

By James Evelegh

Lessons from the pandemic
Juan Señor speaking at the PPA Independent Publisher Conference.

Isn’t ‘on demand’ wonderful. I’ve just enjoyed listening to Juan Señor’s inspiring keynote at last November’s PPA Independent Publisher Conference.

In his talk, he highlighted some of the key lessons of the pandemic years, warned us not to draw the wrong conclusions from these exceptional times and spoke of the huge opportunities ahead.

He said, and I paraphrase slightly:

  1. Don’t give up on the office. Whilst the cash savings of relinquishing expensive office space are tempting, you can’t develop the next generation of journalists remotely. Journalism from home is less productive and of inferior quality. Journalists have to get out there and to interact; it’s impossible to develop journalism that’s worth paying for sat at home. Besides, people don’t want to live at work; they need to be able to disconnect.
  2. Don’t shut down print prematurely. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation, but publishers should beware thinking that the process can be accelerated further by simply shutting down their print operations. In many cases, print still brings in revenue and is still in demand. Do you know how hard it is to operate without cash flow? So, if a digital-only future is something you aspire to, don’t pull the plug on print before your digital revenues are sustainable.
  3. Distance yourself from social media. Publishers’ investments in social media have not paid off and their credibility is being damaged through association with platforms on which toxic behaviour is widespread. Don’t necessarily get out altogether, or not straightaway at any rate, but reduce your presence and think very carefully about which social media platforms you stay on. Some advertisers, like Lush, have decided to come out of social media and place their ads with reputable media. Ironically, the rise of fake news is helping to save proper journalism, as people increasingly turn to more trustworthy sources.
  4. Seize the Netflix moment. We now know that people are prepared to pay for subscriptions to digital services like Netflix, and this, coupled with a global recognition – accelerated by the pandemic – that “journalism matters”, represents a huge opportunity. If quality journalism has value, then it should be paid for. Let fake news remain free while truth moves behind a paywall.

Publishers Juan has spoken with have seen the light: they are erecting pay / data walls and are starting to pull out of social media. Will you follow them?

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.