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Covid-19 and the Media Industry

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:41 PM

The latest news about how the novel coronavirus is affecting the publishing business.

Indie Magazines Form Subscription Bundle

With many physical newsstands and brick-and-mortar stores closed for business, niche indie print magazine publishers have had to find new ways to survive. One such solution: Magbox, a subscription-based curated collection service. Greg Dool of Foliomag.com reports that “the first box will be shipped in June, containing the latest issue of ROVA as well as Adventure Journal, Drift, Fifty Grande and Sandwich magazines.” Boxes will ship every two months with a different mix of titles each time. Read more here.

NYT Pauses Sunday Travel Section

With travel on the back burner until the Covid-19 pandemic eases, the New York Times is rethinking its Sunday supplement. This week, it replaced the travel section with a new “At Home” section to reflect the current reality. Read more here.

Payments for Publishers Delayed

The coronavirus has worsened a longstanding problem in the publishing industry: payment schedules. Publishers were already struggling with payment terms that stretched as long as net-60, but now, according to Max Willens of Digiday.com, those payment schedules have widened even further: “Through the first three weeks of April 2020, payment delays on invoices to publishers and media agencies have increased 20%, according to data collected by FastPay.... Separate research conducted by Oarex ... found that the number of firms that paid their invoices late rose 14.6%, to 55%, in the first quarter.” Even worse, Willen says, the problem is likely to magnify in the coming weeks and months, creating further cash flow nightmares for many publishers. Read more here.

Magazine Print Revenue Up

The news for magazine publishers during the pandemic isn’t all bad. Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post reported this month that newsstand sales were up last month thanks to Covid-19 panic buying. Sales slowed as March drew to a close, but the surge earlier in the month helped offset the slowdown. But tougher time may be ahead, Kelly warns: “Monthly magazines had already sold the ads for the May issues prior to the pandemic, so the slowdown is expected to start showing in the June issues. Some advertisers have pulled back completely, while others are trying to recalibrate their messages.” Read more here.

Membership Up at Daily Beast Inside

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, the Daily Beast has seen a jump in memberships to its Beast Inside product, reports Kayleigh Barber of Digiday.com. As some other publications have done, Daily Beast has kept content pertaining to Covid-19 and public health free to all. But, as Barber notes, “some of the growth has been driven by making more of its opinion and analysis coronavirus coverage beyond the paywall.” Read more here.

Cuts at Meredith

Meredith is making big changes due to the current advertising slump. Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the magazine publishing giant is cutting pay for 60 percent of its staffers until September and “instituting a hiring and wage freeze and a ‘significant’ reduction in using freelance writers for its magazines.... [I]t is withdrawing its fiscal 2020 performance expectations last communicated in February and is suspending its dividend.” Read more here.

Layoffs at Gannett and in Other Newsrooms

News publisher Gannett has laid off workers nationwide, but specific information about the locations and extent of the layoffs has been hard to come by. Kristen Hare and Ren LaForme of Poynter.org have been providing continuous updates in their dig for more information. It’s not clear whether or not the layoffs stem from coronavirus-related losses or the company’s 2019 merger with GateHouse, though one source tells Poynter that it’s the latter. Drawing largely from social media postings, Hare and LaForme have compiled, and continue to update, a list of states with known layoffs. Read more about the Gannett layoffs here. For a running list of newsrooms that have furloughed or laid off employees, click here.

Media Professionals Who Have Died of Covid-19

Poynter has compiled a list of media professionals who have died of coronavirus and has been updating it as things develop. The list includes prominent journalists and photojournalists from all over the world. Read it here.

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