Research with UK publishing leaders reveals the dramatic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on all aspects of UK publishing

    Research conducted with publishing leadership during the first stages of the Coronavirus pandemic in May and June shows widespread impacts across the publishing industry, with industry leaders reporting deep financial, sales and operational challenges as a result of the crisis. The findings contained in a new report, “The Impact of COVID-19 on the UK Publishing Industry,” published today, provides a snapshot of the current state of the industry.

    The full report and analysis can be downloaded from the following URL:

    Report author, Jeremy Brinton said,

    The findings show that publishers of all sizes and in all sectors are experiencing unprecedented disruption in sales and to normal working practices. Unlike other major disruptions the industry is facing, publishers are struggling to plan for the long term for the impact of Coronavirus as they do not know how the pandemic will unfold, how long the lockdown will last and what the overall financial fall out will be.

    The report highlights major challenges facing the industry from the immediate and rapid falls in revenues, an accelerated move from print to digital, supply chain disruption and adjustments to operations from individuals and teams facing working from home challenges to decisions to furlough staff.

    Co-author, Chris Wilkins commented,

    Our research show that that the financial effect is deeper and more severe for educational and academic publishers than for trade. Trade publishers are delaying major launches, but it is the academic houses who are most deeply affected. With the number of overseas students planning to study at UK universities declining precipitously, there is a major effect on revenues. The economic fallout will be huge, some universities are looking at declines in revenues of over 75% and this is affecting procurement and expenditure with the industry.

    The report authors conducted 18 in-depth interviews, with an online survey deployed through ALPSP and the Publishers Association. In interviews, publishing leadership flagged how Coronavirus is accelerating market trends that were already challenging traditional publishing practice. The findings cover not only major changes within sectors of the industry, but also surfaced how the pandemic has affected patterns of sales between lists and content types, with some notable winners and losers.

    ALPSP Chief Executive, Wayne Sime added,

    ALPSP was pleased to support this research from its inception. The impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented, and the need for our members to respond both rapidly and effectively to the pandemic required them to quickly adapt their business models to continue delivering quality content. This report captures the UK publishing industry’s initial reactions to the impact of the virus and is intended to assist individual publishers by refining their short-to-medium term strategies.

    Jeremy Brinton added,

    The crisis is accelerating trends especially for houses that were not yet fully engaged in the transition from print to digital. It is forcing changes in how customers, such as universities, receive and pay for content and will inevitably drive changes in business models for many publishers that haven’t yet gone through this process. Trade, while partly escaping this, is also having to deal with impacts from changes in home working and vendor relations. One positive emerging from the crisis is the industry could become more agile with a digital-first product focus.