PRINT POST-PANDEMIC 

We need to change the way we operate

The future is challenging but the opportunities are there if you know where to look and are prepared to make changes.

By Nicola Murphy

We need to change the way we operate

Lockdown was tricky for print. Magazines and newspapers saw overall declines in sales, excepting the hobbyist and children’s categories. Digital continued to displace printed media, a trend rapidly accelerated by Covid-19 and the global print industry declined from $814.7 billion in 2019 to $743.4 billion in 2020, according to Smithers.

The challenges of shopping during lockdown necessarily had a deep negative effect. Unsurprising, when Kantar research tells us that 53% of print purchasers like to browse before they buy.

Some of these impediments to purchase will recede as the Covid-19 restrictions do; but others will have a lasting impact, accelerating existing market trends for the 2020s.

Smithers’ data shows us that the impact has been most severe on newspapers and magazines. Home deliveries and widespread homeworking has stopped sales to commuters, and many more readers have switched to online media. It is likely that most of this lost volume will never return as titles move to online only or are discontinued. IKEA has announced that it will stop publishing its catalogue – once the largest print job in the world – after the 2021 edition.

In addition, magazine and newspaper purchasers are older. The average magazine consumer’s age is, gulp, 57.85 years according to Kantar. Is this then the much anticipated demise of print? No. But we publishers need to change the way we operate to capitalise on the green shoots of opportunity posed post-covid.

So, what do we need to know to improve our print prospects?

40% of print purchasers are from affluent households. And 70% feel that magazines offer good value for money. And are a luxury purchase, at 67% of heavy purchasers. Print is far more trusted than digital and social media. The recent Kantar ‘Trust in News’ study, showed high trust in print media content over digital content. So, a good opportunity is luxury print. Luxury also plays into the zeitgeist of mental wellbeing, self-care and me-time. Over 90% of consumers read their magazine while relaxing at home.

Consider covermounts too, as an incentive to purchase. PPA research indicates that covermounts increase the value of magazines to purchasers by 26%. Also consider partnering with other titles via multipacks – 68% of consumers approve. Similarly, add competitions and offers to the content mix – another purchase driver at 63% preference.

Finally, launch a children’s magazine! In the last 52 weeks, children’s magazine sales are 12.6% ahead of the total market. Home-schooling in lockdown led to the trend of learning through play. Parents are concerned about the negative effect of too much screen time on tiny minds and perceive magazines as educational, a view supported by The National Literary Trust. Win:win for little Jack and Jill.

Luxury also plays into the zeitgeist of mental wellbeing, self-care and me-time.

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.