Commentary

Recap: The Top 10 'Publishing Insider' Columns For 2020

As Publishing Insider looks forward to a year that promises to bring a much stronger recovery from the pandemic recession, we wanted to take a moment to look back at the most-read columns of 2020.

The year started with a general sense of relief after 2019 had brought more than 7,800 job cuts in the media industry, according to a running tally by Business Insider. The biggest cuts had been at newspaper publishers Gannett and GateHouse Media as they prepared to merge, while digital publishers such as BuzzFeed, Verizon Media, Vice Media also trimmed staff.

The mood was more optimistic in early 2020, as unemployment hovered near the lowest level in 60 years and the stock market reached record highs by February. That all changed within a month, as the coronavirus outbreak metastasized into a global pandemic, and the ensuing lockdowns on "non-essential" businesses triggered an economic collapse.
Publishers saw a surge in web traffic as homebound readers sought news and information about the health crisis, but a broad pullback in ad spending had a disproportionate effect on their revenue. The pandemic hastened longer-term declines in print ad sales for traditional publishers, making their digital platforms more crucial in boosting revenue and subscriptions.
Still, media companies confronted another challenging year with 30,000 job cuts, including 16,000 in newsrooms, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Unfortunately, many of those job losses are permanent.
Racial inequality was another major theme of 2020 after George Floyd was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis. The ensuring mass protests against racism and police violence led many publishers to re-examine their editorial coverage and hiring practices to promote diversity and inclusion.
As news outlets grappled with covering racial inequality, The Washington Post ran an unnecessary story about a dispute among a handful of private individuals at a Halloween party in 2018. The newspaper's coverage of the incident was irresponsible.
President Trump's re-election campaign filed libel lawsuits against The New York Times and The Washington Post, back when Russian interference with U.S. elections was still an issue. The lawsuits didn't have any chilling effect on covering the Trump administration as media attention turned to its handling of the pandemic.
The pandemic was a chance for news outlets to demonstrate their vital role in providing timely information that people can't find elsewhere, especially amid the misinformation that pervades social media. Publishers saw an early jump in digital subscriptions as the pandemic started.
USA Today's Washington bureau chief faced calls to be removed as a moderator in the upcoming vice-presidential debate following revelations that she hosted a party for a woman who used to work for Vice President Mike Pence. As it turned out, Pence was upstaged by a stubborn housefly that perched itself on his head during much of the telecast.
The fragmentation of the news media gives consumers more choices than ever before, often from outlets that reinforce their political views. This trend won't reverse as news publishers seek to serve specialized constituencies.
Meredith, whose titles include People, Better Homes & Gardens and InStyle, was among the publishers that revamped their operations to protect workers while still meeting print and digital deadlines. Doug Olson, president of Meredith Magazines, shared his thoughts on everything from keeping sales teams motivated to developing plans to re-open offices safely.

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7. Conde Nast Lifts Paywalls As Pandemic Keeps People Home

Condé Nast, whose titles include Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Glamour and Bon Appetit, was among the publishers that suspended digital paywalls to give readers more access to its websites. Part of the effort focused on fighting misinformation about the pandemic, a daunting task amid conflicting directives from health officials and other authorities.
As it turned out, Taboola and Outbrain called off the proposed merger as the pandemic affected each company differently. 
As cities erupted in protest against racism and police violence, vandals toppled statues that commemorated Civil War generals, Founding Fathers and even abolitionists. For some reason, Popular Mechanics offered advice on how to tear things down rather than repair or rebuild them.
Patch Media is among the newer generation of digital publishers that are finding ways to provide local news. As publishers of local news grapple with developing sustainable business models, Patch has developed a model that works.
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