As is the case for many companies around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a plethora of unforeseen professional challenges. For the publishing industry in particular, these challenges include a significant decrease in revenue from advertising and subscriptions, as well as a lack of opportunity for new advertising partnerships.
As publishers have persevered through many other changes and challenges over the years, I have no doubt we will do so again. To help, I’ve compiled six tips to help you emerge even stronger than before.
1. Look for opportunities to buy or merge with your competitors.
For all of the thinning out that’s happened in the media industry, there are still too many competitors vying for those media advertising dollars, and the COVID-19 Era represents an opportunity for consolidation.
The challenge, obviously, is that most publishers are under financial duress and don’t have a lot of capital. For those that do, now is the time to approach that competitor about a sale. If you don’t have the capital to buy, maybe it’s time to discuss a merger with your competitor.
In every market in the country, even in these tough times, there is still enough advertising business for one competitor in a market. It’s when the market has three or four that it gets complicated.
Aggressively pursue those consolidation opportunities. (Hint: Buyers are selling really, really cheap right now. Many are just looking for a way to get out.)
2. Keep a low-cost structure.
In my 25 years of publishing experience, one of the things that’s always amazed me was how low we could cut costs during an advertising recession and how fast the costs came back once the recession ended. The trick is holding that cost structure for as long as possible while revenues return. Every recession teaches publishers new tricks in terms of streamlining their operation. Try as best as possible to make your new lean business model your permanent business model.
3. Hunt now for new office space.
If you are fortunate enough to have your lease ending, now is a great time to bargain hunt for a new space or maybe even take the plunge and purchase. Many think we are never going to work in offices again, but that’s unlikely. Take advantage of the bargains now, as values will likely return.
4. Permanently downsize your office.
While office work will likely return, it’s clear to everyone that you don’t need to work every day in an office to be effective. When you’re completely remote, you eventually lose continuity. A flexible plan where half your employees come in three days a week and the other half come on two would cut rent in half. It would also still give you adequate communication and team-building continuity. Almost every employee would like to work from home a couple days a week, and the new flexible model may be optimal for profitability.
5. Find your next great employees.
Most publishers have spent the last six months figuring out how to downsize, but if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it may be time to find your next great employee. A lot of talented people are on the market right now, even some who are still employed.
Re-negotiations of compensation models often create frustration depending on how they’re handled, and if you pull the trigger on the rehiring process first, you may land that game-changing sales rep, editor, or writer. It’s another counter-cyclical move, but companies that can move when others are stagnant benefit in the long run.
6. Sign that new print contract.
In addition to it being a good time to negotiate rent, it’s also a great time to negotiate print contracts. Printers are cutting deals, and it’s a good time to consider locking in pricing when printers are hungriest for business.
Even in the most challenging of times, there are opportunities to improve your publishing business. Many publishers might not have the capital to execute them all, but there are opportunities to be had in acquisition, consolidation, leaner business models, rent, and employee hiring opportunities. It takes a leap of faith to spend money and sign contracts during deep advertising recessions, but the companies that are able to weather the storm have an opportunity to put themselves in an advantageous position going forward.