COVID-19’s Effect on Print Media

Stack of magazines

A couple of months ago, my dentist appointment was cancelled when COVID-19 happenedIt was finally rescheduled for last week when my dentist’s office opened back up. Prior to the appointment, I received an email detailing new policies and precautions put into effect due to the coronavirus pandemic. One item on the list really jumped out at me, as someone in the advertising industry: 

“You will see we have removed all magazines and other materials that are difficult to clean and disinfect.” 

Even before COVID-19, I had begun to wonder how long doctors, dentists, salons, barbershops, automotive repair shops, etc. would continue to stock their lobbies and waiting rooms with magazinesIn today’s society, most people are glued to their smartphones no matter where they areWhen I arrived at the dentist office and walked into the waiting roomto join two other maskedpeople, I immediately started searching for hand sanitizer. Not only is picking up and browsing through a magazine in this environment an unappealing decision, it’s not even an option, because they had all been removed.  

I would imagine similar things will be happening in other lobbies and waiting rooms around the country, as more businesses begin to reopen to the public. Coffee tables will suddenly be void of magazines and newspapers, which certainly won’t make things any easier for the already-struggling print industry. Shifts away from print were already in motionbut COVID-19 may now be expediting that process at an accelerated rate. 

Print publications obviously have circulations beyond business lobbies but this will certainly be something to watch. Although print media subscriptions and readership have been on the decline for years, the medium can still play a significant role in a media mix when used in an integrated campaign. Of course, the intent is to reach consumers with multiple touchpoints across various devices and venues. Will some of those traditional touchpoint opportunities be going away? Our challenge as marketers will be to figure out how to best navigate this “new normal” effectively. And with common consensus changing rapidly on so many fronts, it will be a while before any of us know what “normal” looks like moving forward, for any industry. 

Ben Webb
Director of Communication Planning