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COVID-19 devastates magazine publishing sector

Canadian Magazines Face Layoffs and Closures in the Wake of COVID-19

Based on a nationwide survey distributed in March 2020 to publishers by a consortium of magazine associations (Magazine Association of BC (MagsBC), Alberta Magazine Publishers Association (AMPA), Association québécoise des éditeurs de magazines (AQEM), and Magazines Canada), 154 publishers representing 394 publications estimate they will lose up to $65 million in revenues.

With about 2,400 titles published in Canada, the Canadian magazine industry could experience a loss of between $288 and $389 million in the coming weeks and months.

Magazines in the Western and Atlantic provinces and various territories will be harder hit by the crisis than Ontario and Quebec percentage-wise though, because many of the largest magazines are in the latter provinces, the impact on our sector will be severe throughout Canada.

The 43 BC publishers who responded, representing 89 magazines, estimate a loss of up to $17 million in revenues in the next 6 months. With about 325 titles published in BC, lost revenues could be up to $62 million. 

Fifty-five of the eighty-nine BC magazines (62%) anticipate laying off staff and ceasing publication within the next 6 months without financial support. Up to 245 staff and contractors at these magazines could be laid off, and BC-wide it could be up to 800 or more.

Based on these numbers, 200 or more BC magazines could be shutting their doors and laying off their staff over the next few months if they don’t receive some financial assistance: consumer, lifestyle, and community magazines that depend on ad revenues, niche magazines containing unique content or serving a particular industry, online magazines and many others.

Canada-wide, 183 magazines out of 394 anticipate shutting their doors and laying off 867 staff and contract employees if they receive no financial assistance; this could mean 1,100 or more titles (about 46%) across the country will stop publishing and up to four to five thousand laid off within the next 6 months. Both new and established professionals and freelancers will also be hard-hit as jobs become scarce and the industry shrinks rapidly.

Many companies are cancelling their ads, either because they feel there is no reason to advertise when they’re closed or as a cost-cutting measure. This has a long-term impact as magazines lose 6-month, even 12-month contracts, in addition to coping with plummeting newsstand sales, cancelled events and cash-strapped donors and subscribers. Much of this income is now gone, and, because of often long lead-times needed to publish magazines and develop a readership, it can take a long time to regain.

A number of magazines are also doing their best to support their communities during this crisis even with few resources as revenues decline.

Although some magazines in Canada will receive funding shortly through the Canada Periodical Fund’s Aid To Publishers program, and governments are actively working with cultural sector groups such like the Magazine Association of BC, magazines that distribute their issues for free, online magazines, and others are not eligible for government funding, possibly as many as 80% of the magazines published in Canada.

I have attached a more in-depth analysis by data journalist David McKie for anyone who’s interested.

We have been meeting with the federal and provincial governments to discuss ways to support our industry through this crisis and the long recovery that will follow. More on what we’re doing in a separate post.

Sylvia Skene
Executive Director
Magazine Association of BC