How Print Magazines Can Build On Their Lockdown Subscription Success

Magazines have proved hugely popular with people in lockdown throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, providing them with some escapism and an opportunity to relax while stuck at home for long periods.

print magazine covers

For those unable to leave the house – or preferring to stay indoors for reasons of safety – subscription services have ensured they have not had to go without their magazines of choice to keep them entertained, inspired and distracted – and, in some cases, help people learn a new skill or further develop an existing passion.

This has translated into triple-digit surges in new print and digital subscriptions. Jellyfish, which owns, the leading magazine subscription website in the UK, and, the fast-growing international digital newsstand, reports more than 500% increases in some print magazines categories (kids) compared with the same period last year.

Digital subscriptions are well up, too, albeit not quite as significantly as print.

How publishers have responded to the situation

The publishing industry deserves a huge amount of credit for the way it has adapted and innovated in these strange times. They’ve been rewarded with an impressive print ROI.

Amy Brown, Head of Trading at Hearst UK which owns brands including ELLE, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Esquire, explained how its teams “faced a huge technical challenge of creating, editing, printing and distributing 19 brands”, and yet it hasn’t missed a single deadline.

Sue Todd, CEO at Magnetic Media, explained how editorial teams were quick to switch-up their content to help audiences “cope with their working and lifestyle changes and have continued to provide useful and reassuring information to consumers.”


“The close relationship magazine titles have with their readers has helped deliver highly relevant content that has been ‘on point’ in terms of the mood of the nation”

Sue Todd, CEO at Magnetic Media at Mediatel’s ‘The Future of Publishing’ roundtable event
print magazine covers

Retaining new subscribers

It’s clear that magazine brands have built up plenty of goodwill with their readers, both old and new, during the pandemic. But, as the world returns to relative normality, the publishing industry faces the new challenge of trying to build on their lockdown success, retain those new subscribers and maximise their print ROI.

There are no certain answers to the question of how to ensure this period of prosperity for magazine publishing is not short lived. But some brands are already making moves to set themselves up for the future.

Telegraph Media Group’s decision to return all the furlough money it received from the UK Government after remaining profitable during the worst months of the crisis might not appear like a move to retain readers. But, purely as a PR stunt, it’s impossible not to look on that decision favourably, and it will undoubtedly be rewarded for the gesture going forward as subscribers weigh up where to make cutbacks.

Magazines might also decide to extend value offers beyond lockdown, such as free delivery, especially if they played a big part in attracting new subscribers in the first place. While publishers won’t be able to foot the bill for these types of incentives forever, it’s about giving subscribers as few reasons as possible to cancel their subscription in the short term.

People may still be looking for good value deals and it’s crucial you call out your USPs in your ads – such as free delivery, or immediate and free access to a digital edition, if bundled with a print subscription.

woman reading print magazine

Final word

It remains to be seen whether the changes in consumer behaviour because of this pandemic and other world events will persist. But publishers can’t afford to simply revert to pre-pandemic ways and must identify how they can build on the success they have seen during lockdown by tuning into what consumers want and delivering on those desires.


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