COMMENT 

Reasons to be cheerful

It’s been a traumatic year but, as we start to come out of lockdown, James Evelegh is optimistic about the future.

By James Evelegh

Reasons to be cheerful
Photograph: Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

If you’re reading this, then I’m assuming you’re still in business and that in itself is a cause for celebration. You’ve made it this far – congratulations. While we’re not out of the woods yet, there are solid grounds for optimism that business will start to look up soon.

Of course, we’ve been here before. Lessons from the first wave were not taken on board; relatively low infection rates last summer led many to assume the worst was behind us and then the deadlier second wave struck. Mainland Europe is currently in the grip of a third wave.

But, there are a number of significant differences between now and then. The change in tone from the UK government (“abundance of caution”, “cautious but irreversible”, “the final lockdown”) shows that lessons have been learnt and, of course, we now have a vaccine. I had my first jab a couple of weeks back. Hooray!

With the government’s roadmap and the chances of a significant easing of lockdown restrictions over the coming months, the economy should start to pick up, confidence start to return, money start being spent, and marketing budgets start to increase.

And, the publishing industry is well placed to prosper in the post-Covid era, because:

  1. We’re all digital natives now: due to the hugely accelerated progress we’ve all made over the last twelve months, the old divide between heavy-footed “legacy” publishers and fleet-footed “pure-play” publishers is outdated. You’re as likely to find fast paced digital innovation from a publisher with print products as from one without.
  2. We have reenergised workforces imbued with a can-do spirit. During the pandemic, our teams were dispersed to the four winds. They no longer had a manager to look over their shoulder, an IT person to come and give their computer a kick, a water cooler to gather round, but they still had to get their job done. And they did so magnificently. Any reticence or lack of self-confidence that might have existed prior to March last year has been dispelled.
  3. We’re now more diverse and reflective of society as a whole (or at least we’re making serious efforts to become so). Having paid lip service to the ideal of inclusivity for many years, over the past twelve months, publishers have started to take a much more proactive approach – appointing senior executives to pilot through diversity initiatives, shaking up their recruitment and training policies, and, generally looking as if they are genuine about affecting real change. This is still very much work in progress, but there seems to have been a sea-change in publisher attitude which bodes well for the future.
  4. We now have a greater sense of self. The pandemic has forced us to confront some fundamental questions: Why do we do what we do? Who are we doing it for? Are we doing it well? Finding the answers to those questions has been a cathartic process. Frivolous, marginal activities have been dropped; our focus is now sharper, our performance better and our communities better served. Publishing now has a better sense of its own place in the media firmament.

Our journey out of lockdown will be gradual and there will be setbacks, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can approach it with great confidence.

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