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Covid-19 Situation Report -- Part II

Posted on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:19 PM

More top editors tell us how Covid-19 has affected all aspects of their jobs.

By the Editors Only staff

Readers continue to comment on how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted their publications:

Susan Buningh, executive editor, Attention magazine, director of communications, CHADD

Even before our office closed on March 16 and our entire staff began working remotely, the coronavirus crisis affected every aspect of our nonprofit's communications and publications staff. We are still publishing a bimonthly print and digital magazine, but we are between issues so I am uncertain of the immediate effect on our advertising. Advertising revenue has been down for the past few years. We publish a weekly e-newsletter, but only one of those issues carries advertising. No new ads were sold for the March issue, which came out the last week of March. I won't know the status for April until later.

In response to the crisis, we reworked our planned content for the magazine and newsletters. We began publishing at least three blogs per week with content tailored to the needs of our audience, which is more frequent than our usual one or two per month. We also increased the number and frequency of podcasts featuring experts; so far, in one month, we have recorded more podcasts in response to the crisis than we usually record over the course of a year.

My tip for other editors: Be nimble.

Yadin Roman, editor-in-chief, Eretz magazine

Most of the editorial staff is working from home. As we are a geographical-leisure-history magazine, advertising content has zeroed. Outstanding advertising has not been paid.

On the other hand: As people have more time to read, sales of new subscriptions and especially book sales have grown. I have the impression that one of the results of the crisis will be a surge in print material -- books and magazines. A large segment of magazine and print book readers are in the 64-plus age range; here in Israel most have a regular pension.

For this segment of the population, there will be a decline in many leisure activities, especially where groups of people gather together in crowded circumstances (theater, flying, large hotels, etc.). Some of the "spare time" thus created will be for stay-at-home activities (or long stays at B&Bs, for example). This will promote reading -- and the pleasure in reading -- a nice printed book or high-quality design magazines.

Name withheld by request

Right now, my editorial team is going about business mostly as usual, since we're a fairly small team, and many of us worked remotely before being ordered to do so. We put out daily e-newsletters and monthly print issues. Advertising for all of those is steady at this time, but I imagine there could be a trailing effect as those clients pare budgets. There will be no industry trade shows or events for staff to attend this year, although some are moving to virtual events that may work for getting content.

This is the first print issue we will do with zero physical contact or signing off of the pages, so we are using the comments tool in Adobe Acrobat to get across notes and corrections between editorial and production.

We have shifted to putting out more podcasts of interviews with key people in our industry, which includes a weekly sponsored email that promotes the new episodes. We also have done and will continue to do more in-depth sponsored video interviews or tours on a particular topic.

We are part of a larger company that puts on a lot of events, however, so the future is still not certain, regardless of the strength of our segment currently.

Deborah Lockridge, editor-in-chief, Heavy Duty Trucking

Advertising has definitely dropped, although I can't tell you by what percentage. Most significantly affected were the events we had scheduled, which have all been canceled or postponed. I'm operating with a much-reduced editorial team, yet there's a lot of pressure to come up with more Covid-19 coverage -- both to serve our readers and because it's one area advertisers still seem to have an appetite for sponsoring.

Trucking is significantly affected by the pandemic. As an essential industry, trucking transports everything from medical supplies to groceries to, yes, toilet paper. At the same time, as the economy overall slows down, freight overall is scarcer. And there are global supply chain issues rippling through all this as well. Fleets want to know how to keep their drivers safe, need to stay on top of changing federal and state exemptions and guidances, and want analysis to help them figure out where we go from here.

So we're working very long days. The print product is taking a backseat right now to digital coverage, webinars, resource centers, photo galleries, and exploring new content types for us, such as video blogs, recorded Zoom conferences, and podcasting. We're doing a lot of webinars; we have shrunk what's normally a months-long process for producing webinars down to anywhere from 2 weeks down to 72 hours.

I would say a good 80 percent of our content focus right now is Covid-19 related, although we are still addressing many of the regular topics our readers need to keep their businesses running efficiently. We ditched our planned cover story for our May issue to instead focus on interviews with fleets and how they are handling the situation. Longer-term planning -- and, to be honest, meticulous proofreading -- have also taken a backseat.

We're reaching out to non-journalist industry experts for more guest content. We're also coordinating more closely with sister brands at our company where our audiences have some overlapping information needs. We've gone from monthly calls with that group to weekly ones, plus more email and Slack conversations as well.

And while I've worked from home for years, having to do so has been a challenge for colleagues who don't have a full office at home like I do. It affects your productivity when you're working from a kitchen table on a laptop with a VOIP phone app where callers can hear the clothes dryer tumbling in the background. We find ourselves working and communicating on evenings and weekends to try to work around some of those issues. Communication channels are varied -- office phone, cell phone, text, slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, email, and Asana.

Matt Whipp, Haymarket Media Group

I'm a product person rather than edit, but we are making some changes. As a B2B we are not sending print copies but switching to digital editions during the lockdown -- there is no benefit to anyone in sending a print edition to a closed office.

We are also producing a lot of Covid-focussed content for which we are removing access limits. As a trade journal we feel we have an important role to play in sharing experiences from across the industries we cover and giving a voice.

We've been introducing new polls on key issues for which we can analyze the job titles of respondents. This has given us some amazing insights and has led to some really compelling content, with many times the engagement of what we'd previously considered successful.

Rebecca Stauffer, managing editor, PDA Letter

My publication, as of the first week in April, has made access to all of our content free. Our publication audience consists of pharma and biotech employees, so we felt this was a way to help the industry we support by providing as much information available as possible.

We're also posting Covid-19-related content on a regular basis.

Rachel H. Pollack, editorial director, Scrap magazine

The novel coronavirus pandemic hit the United States as we were producing our magazine's convention issue. This issue is typically at least 50 percent larger than a regular issue, with substantial content devoted to the mid-April convention and exposition and a lot of related advertising. In mid-March, my association announced it was canceling the convention. We ended up removing from the issue all convention content and many ads, rewriting and re-editing other content that made reference to the convention or other canceled events, and adding new content about the pandemic and the resources the association is providing to help members address it. This resulted in a delay in production, less advertising, and a smaller issue, but we will save some money on printing and distribution.

Going forward, we of course plan to write about the many effects the pandemic is having on the industry we cover. We're also postponing stories that are less relevant today. For example, we had scheduled an article on innovative places to look for workers in a tight employment market, but now millions more people will be looking for work.

We're expecting budgets to be much tighter for our members, our advertisers, and ourselves; thus we're planning smaller issues, less use of freelance writers, and less travel. The pandemic and its response will also have a broader impact on the editors' development, as we use in-person events and member site visits as opportunities for education and networking. We are participating in video conferences and conference calls, but they don't foster the one-to-one connections that are so useful for developing sources.

AAAS Science International, Inc.

There isn't anyone available to comment as our priority at present is keeping the journal running smoothly.

Sharon Shinn, co-editor, BizEd

BizEd is a bi-monthly magazine, and for that reason we rarely cover extremely current events in print -- such news will be out of date by the time the magazine is in readers' hands. However, Covid-19 has been so all-encompassing -- and has had a direct effect on our readers -- we knew we had to cover it in some way. For that reason, we prepared a number of pieces that we could post quickly online. In some cases, we extracted less time-sensitive messages from our sources and then re-edited those online pieces for print.

We have seen a drop of about 30 percent in ads from our March/April to our May/June issue. Our response was to drop our page count by about 12 percent, so we're still providing about the same amount of editorial material to readers in a smaller package. We're not sure what will happen as we go to produce the July/August issue!

Tricia Bisoux, co-editor, BizEd

In the months ahead, we know we'll need to stay in close touch with our readers, advertisers, and advisors to learn what is happening with them and what kind of information they will most value as this crisis continues to unfold. Just as every other industry, magazine publishing is going to be negatively affected by the pandemic, often in unforeseen ways. Keeping our relationships strong will be vital in navigating that uncertainty successfully.

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