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March 23, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:04am

Coronavirus: Time Out and Stylist free magazines go digital-only as readers stay home

By Charlotte Tobitt

Free magazines Time Out and Stylist are both temporarily stopping their print editions to cope with the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on their business models.

Time Out magazine has gone digital-only for the first time since it launched in London in 1968 as it revealed coronavirus has already had a “significant” impact, with commuters staying away from offices.

Stylist, one of the only other major free-to-distribute magazines left in the UK, is also temporarily stopping print production “during these unprecedented times”.

Time Out said it has seen a “slowing” of advertising revenues and has been forced to temporarily close all six of its food markets in Lisbon and North America.

The lifestyle brand produces content for 328 cities in 58 countries, rebranded to “Time In” last week as people around the world were urged to stay home to slow the spread of the virus.

It has now temporarily stopped production of its print magazine in all its cities, pledging to return once they “bounce back”.

A digital magazine will be available through the Time Out website alongside its usual offering and new “house-bound relevant content” in a bid to retain the print audience during this period.

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Time Out Group chief executive Julio Bruno said: “We are responding quickly to these unprecedented times with a temporary ‘Time In’ rebrand, a launch of an e-version of the magazine, complementing our online digital content, a review of the operating structure and preserving our cash position.”

As of 29 February, the group had cash reserves of £11.4m and an undrawn debt facility of £18m with “various cost mitigations and other available options”.

Bruno added: “We are in the process of assessing the potential financial impact, which will be highly dependent on the duration of the outbreak, coupled with the response from governments and consumers alike.

“However, in the meantime, our primary concern is the wellbeing and safety of our employees, their families, our guests, concessionaires and their teams.”

Time Out had a print distribution of 309,082 in the second half of 2019, according to ABC. It is available to pick up from stations, hotels, shops and other locations.

The switch to digital-only came on the same day the UK-based Time Out Group published a trading update for 2019, showing it had increased its gross revenues by 58 per cent year-on-year to £77.1m in growth driven by the Time Out Market expansion.

The Time Out Media division saw earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation (EBITDA) improve from a loss of £7.9m in 2018 to a loss of £2.2m. The most significant EBITDA gain (£2.7m) was made in the UK.

Overall Time Out Media’s digital advertising revenues grew by ten per cent to £16.4m while print revenues fell by four per cent to £14.8m.

In the UK only, digital ad revenues grew by 15 per cent and print revenues grew by six per cent, which the company said was primarily driven by the sale of all of its available cover wraps during the year.

Women’s lifestyle title Stylist will print its last issue this week for what it said would be “(hopefully) a relatively short period of time”.

Stylist had a print distribution of 403,931 in the second half of 2019. It is normally distributed at train stations in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester and Newcastle alongside other locations like shops, hotels and gyms.

It will still publish a digital magazine on its own app, which is launching this week, as well as the Apple News Plus and Readly subscription platforms.

A Stylist spokesperson said today: “Alongside the digital edition, we have a highly engaged digital and social audience of over 3m women, a direct email brand, a new timely franchise Working from Home with Stylist as well as a new podcast series and the ability to create proactive, tailored solutions for all our advertising partners via Stylist Studios.

“The volume of our content publishing won’t change and we stay close to the Stylist woman during this time.”

Stylist cancelled its second annual Remarkable Women Awards, due to be held at a central London hotel on 10 March, because of the coronavirus outbreak but unveiled the winners online today.

Financial freesheet City AM on Friday announced a temporary suspension of its print newspaper to last “until our readers start returning to the capital”. The Evening Standard is to deliver copies to homes from today.

Read all Press Gazette’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and the news industry here

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