Hearst reports significant ecommerce upturn during Covid-19 lockdown

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Hearst’s portfolio of titles is experiencing significant gains across ecommerce, the Media Post has reported. The news comes as readers continue to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since mid-March, ecommerce-driven product sales have increased across 30 brands, resulting in total sales of one million products through site content that month. If the trend continues, the company is on track to double that number for April, resulting in a 358 per cent increase year-on-year. Good Housekeeping, which has long had a robust ecommerce business, saw an increase of 567 per cent on the previous year, Men’s Health 546 per cent, and Cosmopolitan 388 per cent.

“We started to notice a dramatic increase around the second week of March, which was when we started seeing nonessential businesses close in various states around the [US],” Emily Silverman, Senior Director, Ecommerce and Partnerships, told Publishers Daily. “We always try to keep an eye on how people are coming to our sites — from what sources, which stories they’re reading and hopefully, what products they’re buying. That feedback loop really served us well here, because, as we saw the increases, we were able to take advantage of and notice the things our readers were seeming to need.”

FIPP’s latest Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot, (see the webinar video here) in partnership with CeleraOne, tells a similar story on the subscriptions side of the digital industry. Flagship publications like the New York Times (NYT) and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have seen significant increases in subscription rates in recent months, and this is not necessarily as a result of audiences switching from print to digital. 


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“I don’t think we are seeing anyone shift from print to digital anymore to be honest,” Tobias Henning, Axel Springer’s General Manager Premium BildPlus and WeltPlus, said on the webinar last week. “Because I would say, the digitisation from this point of view is over. So someone, after 25yrs of the internet, who is still reading print will still read print. So we are not convincing people to shift from print to paid digital, but rather convincing our free digital users to get into a paid subscription.”

“And we have to convince much more of our younger audiences, because we see that these demographics are much more willing to pay. They grew up with Apple, Spotify, Netflix, and have learned that for great content on digital devices they have to pay.”

In the wider publishing world, there is a growing sense that global lockdown measures are actually having a positive impact on readership. UK magazine, The Bookseller has reported that in April, the London Review of Books (LRB) recorded its highest volume of website traffic since December 2015 and saw subscriptions rise by 70 per cent year on year. Web sessions were up 42 per cent, and a new downloadable print-at-home edition of LRB has been created to serve as a stand-in until physical mailings can be resumed. 

In an industry that remains dynamic, an increased appetite for digital content and digital experiences can conversely provide new opportunities. How publishers adapt to ‘the new normal’ over the coming months may prove to be a key consideration in their more longterm success.  


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