Eurozine Online Workshops

COVID-19’s impact on cultural journals, part II: How to save print!

The coronavirus pandemic has severely hit the cultural sector, including cultural journals. What role can digital methods play in saving print? How can lost income from print sales be recouped? How can print journals be revived after the pandemic? These questions served as a starting point for the workshop, moderated by Eurozine’s editor Sarah Waring. In total, 13 editors and cultural managers from 8 different journals and organizations joined to discuss their journals’ experiences, including with hybrid (print and online) models for publishing and sales.

Immediate effects

The economic effects of the coronavirus crisis have certainly had an impact on all print publications. Participants shared their respective concerns regarding initial challenges due to the pandemic: Would printers even do a print run? If so, would the journal then be able to distribute the issues? What would distribution look like? International distribution was impossible at times, but a drastic decline in print sales was inevitable even nationally. One participant explained that many local distributors were not taking any orders due to most sales points closing during lockdowns.

Assessing options

In response to the crisis, one journal made a special appeal to its readers and supporters and sold copies directly via their online shop to compensate for the loss of regular distribution – with very satisfying results. They also added an option for readers to support them by making a direct donation, which did help a little as well. Another journal decided to do a smaller than usual print run and was able to send out some copies themselves with the help of a distribution company; their publisher was able to send out the subscribed issues as initially planned. They also published the PDF well ahead and encouraged their readers to download the online edition.

Evaluating funding opportunities

Another common challenge amongst journals is that grant funding comes from local governmental sources, which, as a result of the economic crisis, in some cases had to suspend funding – at least until things clear out. State assistance has helped a little, as one editor could report since their journal didn’t have to pay for public insurance for a few months, which lightened their budget slightly. They are now exploring ways to reach their readers directly, become more self-sustainable, and appeal more for direct support. One participant talked about their journal’s website relaunch, which happened right before the crisis hit. They are not dependent on book sales because a university and private funds mainly fund them. Another participant noted that academic content seems to have an advantage over consumer content at the moment of crisis. An editor added that their funding model of foundation funding and academic publishing worked to their advantage as they were not reliant on the advertisement. Their publisher, an academic publishing company, wasn’t affected by the crisis and was operating as usual. This leads to the conclusion that a hybrid distribution and funding system could be a possible solution for some journals.

Editorial work settings

As established in the first workshop, editorial teams adapted quite quickly to working from home. One editor talked about his experience with authors during the pandemic: even those usually hard to reach replied positively to requests to collaborate because they had fewer (paid) engagements than usual. Another participant shared the fruitful experience of commissioning articles specifically from unknown or freelance authors struggling even more financially now than before the crisis.

Reviving print

A participant noted that online tools have significantly helped during the pandemic. Still, they also fear that a lot of the work will stay online even after the crisis, especially at universities and magazines. Others shared that concern. An online-only daily life is proven to be extra stressful and can have damaging effects (mainly) on mental health. The editor then expressed the wish that Eurozine made a case for print journals and that governments and the EU supported the print sector more urgently as the crisis has crippled (print) journals even more.
Eurozine helps journals by funding translations and has plans to further promote issues and partner journals via the Eurozine podcast Gagarin.
However, many funding bodies advocate for digitalization and are more favourable towards funding online and digitization projects and initiatives. A possible solution to this dilemma is to advocate for the hybrid model to make the case of print journals.


Eurozine Online Workshops are part of the project “Eurozine – Network of cultural journals”, which is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

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