From diving head-first into webinars to making up for suddenly irrelevant editorial calendars, leaders at five magazines tell us how they’re making it work.

The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will impact publishing is still coming into focus, and, as our content director noted last month, will likely take years to fully assess.

Absent the luxury of planning years, months or even weeks into the future, publishers of all sizes have been forced to make important decisions quickly to adapt to the moment and remain valuable to their readers, especially those whose magazines serve professionals in explicitly defined industries, many of which are facing unprecedented disruptions of their own.

“It certainly took a huge toll on our industry and our revenue streams, and we had to really make some decisions,” says Rich Luna, director of publishing at the meetings industry association MPI and editor-in-chief of its flagship publication, The Meeting Professional. “We decided to stop printing the magazine. Whether it’s temporary or not, we don’t know yet, but at least for the near future.”

Although internal surveys suggest most readers prefer the print product, Luna says the shift to digital-only was partially driven by logistics; most members were getting the publication sent to their offices. But with lower production costs, The Meeting Professional was also able to distribute the digital edition not just to MPI members, but to anyone who has signed up for a webinar or an online course or attended an MPI conference in the past, doubling its distribution from 50,000 in print to 100,000 for the digital edition.

“They might not be members, but they certainly are part of our community,” Luna says. “We really felt it was important to get the news out on what’s happening within our industry to as many people as possible.”

For a publication that had, in recent years, been focused on ramping up the amount of original content it published online, the shift to a digital edition was a windfall, Luna says. In the first week after the digital May issue debuted, pageviews, sessions and unique visitors tripled, compared to previous months.

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