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Positive outlook

The surge in subscriptions during the pandemic has shown the enduring appeal of print.

By Adam Sherman

Positive outlook

It had become very easy before the pandemic to write-off print as a viable medium in the face of a – seemingly – overwhelming surge of digital content. To some, print was heading towards niche status. Yesterday’s product; just for purists.

However, I’ve always believed in a place for print in the market. Whether on its own or part of a bundle, print has a valuable part to play in the mix. The pandemic and lockdown conditions showed just how exciting that part could be and how positive the outlook is.

Many of our publisher clients saw an increase in subscriptions over lockdown. From March 2020 to January 2021, we supported them with campaigns and round-the-clock customer service, and saw increases of up to 36%, many of which were print or print bundles.

It’s more than 12 months since the start of lockdown and many of those ‘new’ subscriptions have renewed. It demonstrates that customers have returned to print and, crucially, liked it enough to stay with it. It also suggests a demand for a more tranquil, tactile reading experience that print satisfies so well.

But, what next? Publishers should keep the momentum going with print content aimed at a post-lockdown society that is willing to embrace change and new experiences, and discover and rediscover new passions. Whether it’s craft, travel, sports, cooking or DIY, the benefits of print as a medium to guide and instruct can be substantial.

Print publishers may also wish to explore different frequencies. For example, would fortnightly issues bridge the gap between instant digital content and waiting a month for new content? It’s the full print experience without a large gap between editions.

There is a note of caution to be raised, however, in the form of new Value Added Tax (VAT) and Duty regulations relating to the movement of goods (including magazines and periodicals) into EU member states from countries outside the EU. These took effect from 1st July 2021 and, as a result, all goods imported to the EU are now subject to VAT.

Air Business has established business models to fit the circumstances and requirements of our customers but publishers not prepared for the changes may struggle to get their content distributed effectively. However, this should not be seen as a reason to reduce print runs. Demand from subscribers in the EU for high quality, English-language publications is holding up strong as ex-pats seek a taste of home or follow their favourite interests, or local customers access content that isn’t necessarily available in their home markets.

And whilst customers could get all this through an app or browser, there’s still nothing quite like the soft thud of paper on doormat and the anticipation of a new edition.

It also suggests a demand for a more tranquil, tactile reading experience that print satisfies so well.

About Air Business

Established in 1986, Air Business is a market-leader in global mail, fulfilment, distribution and subscription management. Our unique end-to-end service portfolio includes subscriber acquisition and marketing strategy, worldwide postal and courier distribution, digital and mail fulfilment solutions and warehouse and freight logistics, all with exceptional and seamless customer service at its heart.

Contact details:

Tel: +44 (0) 1727 890 600



Twitter: @AirBusinessLtd

This article is part of our ‘Print Post-Pandemic’ special feature, looking at the future of print as we emerge from lockdown. The feature includes the following articles by leading publishers and suppliers:

A major part of the mix, by Mark Allen

Rewards extended dwell time, by Sally Hampton

Shout it loud: print is safe!, by Chris Horn

Targeted distribution is key, by Stephanie Hyde

New metrics needed, by Keiron Jefferies

Sustainability: consumers demanding more, by Sarah Lesting

We need to change the way we operate, by Nicola Murphy

Reasons for (justifiable) optimism, by Tim Robinson

Luxury is physical, by Piers Russell-Cobb

Positive outlook, by Adam Sherman

Subtle changes bring cost savings, by Julian Townsend

Turning ‘expensive’ into ‘premium’, by Neil Wass

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.