It’s no secret that media, particularly the magazine industry, was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.
For years, companies had been reducing their spending on glossy magazine ads, a trend that was only exacerbated by COVID-19. As well as a slide in advertising, producing certain magazines became almost impossible in some months during lockdowns, with only limited numbers of people allowed in studios and fashion items hard to come by as factories produced hand sanitizer instead of apparel and handbags. As a result, a number of magazines, especially independent ones, paused print or reduced frequency. Some, like W, which changed hands yet again last year, returned to print, while others have yet to do so.
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Then there are those that took a pause for reasons other than the pandemic like Love, whose founder Katie Grand stepped down to focus on new projects. Marie Claire also became a digital-only publication after Hearst sold the title to U.K.-based media company Future.
Next year, more titles are expected to go out of print after Barry Diller’s Dotdash acquired Meredith Corp.’s magazine business — which includes People, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly, Shape, Magnolia Journal, Sweet July and Southern Living — in a deal valued at $2.7 billion. While its best-performing titles are expected to remain untouched, the digital-first company plans to focus on profitability versus scale and marketing and branding benefits, noting that magazine ad revenues are experiencing secular declines, accelerated by the pandemic.
Here, WWD takes a look at some of the publications that paused print plans during 2020 and if they’re likely to return.
Paper, most famous for “breaking the internet” with the help of a half-naked Kim Kardashian West, halted print operations in May 2020, with its owner, former longtime Vogue publisher Tom Florio, telling WWD at the time that he was unsure if it would return. “Part of me is open enough to allow this thing to really roll out digitally and socially in the way where most people know Paper. Most people know Paper — like the kids, the Gen Z — through this social engagement,” he said.
Around 18 months later, print is yet to make a comeback and while Florio did not respond to request for comment, a source told WWD it is unlikely to return in print. Instead, it is focusing on digital and social platforms.
The biannual publication was set up by stylist Katie Grand in partnership with Condé Nast in 2009 and based in London. But when Grand revealed in September 2020 that she would be exiting the publication, Condé executives decided shortly after that the title would move to New York, with Whembley Sewell, editor in chief of Them, set to take charge. No official statement was made on the future of the print product, but it was understood at the time that the main focus would be social media and video. However, since then there has been no mention of Love, including in the press release revealing Sewell’s successor at Them: Sarah Burke. And while the focus was said to be on social media, its Instagram account, which boasts more than 1 million followers, has not been updated since New Year’s Eve 2020 when the caption stated “See you again soon.”
Nevertheless, a source told WWD not to read anything into the fact that Love was not mentioned in the press release and that the publication is set to be relaunched sometime next year. Only time will tell if there will be a print component.
Time Out New York
Time Out New York was typically published twice a month until pausing print in March 2020 with many city-dwellers working from home and fewer commuters in the city. That’s understood to still be under review. In contrast, Time Out is back in print in London, Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona and Madrid.
“Following the lifting of many restrictions in cities around the world, Time Out took the decision to resume print magazines in limited volumes in response to marketplace demand,” said Stacy Bettman, president of the Americas for Time Out. “Time Out Media in North America, including Time Out New York, continues to be a digital-first brand distributing high-quality content — written and curated by local expert journalists — showcasing the best food, drinks, culture, art, music, theater, travel and entertainment the city has to offer, across multiplatform channels and the team will continue to innovate in this area.”
After acquiring fashion, music and cultural site Nylon in 2019, Bustle Digital Group relaunched it digitally in April 2020, but delayed its print issue due to the coronavirus. “[Print has been delayed] because of the coronavirus and what it’s done to the industry and there’s uncertainty there and it’s a big project and undertaking for us and we’ll have to hire people. We’re still really excited about it,” Emma Rosenblum, chief content officer of BDG’s lifestyle arm, which includes Bustle, Elite Daily, Romper and The Zoe Report, said at the time.
In a statement provided to WWD, Rosenblum insisted print is still in the cards. “We expect to publish Nylon in print this coming year, after the setback caused by the pandemic. We are creating a special edition with our recent cover star interview for this week’s Art Basel event, Nylon House, and our plan is to release larger print issues around major cultural moments, which will align with the brand’s expanded experiential offerings,” she said.
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