The 2020 Publishing Hot List: The Print and Media Brands Rising to Covid-19’s Challenges

Recognizing stellar work in trying times by The Atlantic, The Washington Post and many others

These Publishing Hot List winners quickly adapted to unprecedented conditions. The Atlantic, InStyle, New Yorker, The Washington Post, NPR

Publishing has been one of the many industries bludgeoned by the pandemic, which shuttered many publications that had already been on life support prior to Covid-19. But the winners on this year’s Publishing Hot List quickly adapted to unprecedented conditions, evaporating revenue streams and rapidly evolving consumption patterns to create some of their finest work ever. Here are the 2020 Hot List winners in publishing:

Publishing Executives of the Year

Hamish McKenzie, Chris Best, Jairaj Sethi, Substack

Courtesy of Substack

Last year, Substack’s only employees were its three co-founders: Hamish McKenzie, Chris Best and Jairaj Sethi. Now, the San Francisco-based startup has a bigger team—it’s up to 18 employees—and even bigger ambitions: trying to do nothing less than reinvigorate the flagging media industry. … Click here for the full Publishing Executives of the Year profile.

Publishing Editor of the Year

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

Stephen Voss/The Atlantic

Jeffrey Goldberg’s attention to detail has served Goldberg well during his four years as The Atlantic’s editor in chief, a position he landed after proving himself time and time again as a talented reporter and remarkable writer. Adweek’s Editor of the Year has led by example, continuing to write thoughtful, provoking stories that break national news, even as he smoothly manages the newsroom during these chaotic times. … Click here for Goldberg’s full Publishing Editor of the Year profile.

Hottest Magazine of the Year

The Atlantic

Courtesy of The Atlantic

With its remarkable journalism, The Atlantic grew its subscriber base in a single year nearly three times what the periodical had projected to reach in two years. In the pandemic’s first two months, it added 70,000 subscribers, reached more than 200,000 subscriptions by June and now has 650,000 total subscribers. With coverage that ranged from how to stop a civil war at the beginning of the year to its own Covid-19 tracking project, The Atlantic has remained a clear, concise and accurate voice providing context and perspective while navigating a tumultuous year. —Sara Jerde

Hottest Magazine Cover of the Year

The New Yorker, Kadir Nelson’s “Say Their Names”

Courtesy of The New Yorker

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. The New Yorker, a magazine known as much for its rich imagery as its storytelling, implored readers, with breathtaking visuals, to say their names. In artist Kadir Nelson’s June 14 cover, Floyd, the most recent Black victim of police violence at the time, looms large, his body populated with the faces of other Black victims and icons, including Martin Luther King Jr., Emmett Till and Rosa Parks. The cover gained traction online, leading to 8.3 million social impressions, and the National Civil Rights Museum requested a copy of the magazine for its collection. —Scott Nover

Hottest Design/Photography in a Magazine


Fauci: Frankie Alduino; Zendaya: AB+DM

InStyle has managed to create eye-catching spreads even after celebrities and stylists began working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Socially distant shoots with Lady Gaga, Zendaya and Cynthia Erivo helped the brand maintain the familiar style and glamour readers are accustomed to. And who could forget its September digital cover star? Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing sunglasses by the pool garnered over 4 billion impressions. —S.J.

Hottest Story of the Year

Pandemic Coverage

Miguel Medina—AFP via Getty Images

Most huge stories that dominate the news for weeks and months tend to be limited to a specific country or region and have an end date, such as Election Day. But the coronavirus pandemic has been a completely different beast, affecting the entire planet and with no end in sight. National publications including The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The New Yorker and The New York Times, as well as their local counterparts, created new, prominent sections in their print editions and on their websites to keep readers informed. And social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter rolled out Covid-19 information centers and took steps to prevent the spread of misinformation on their platforms. —David Cohen

This story first appeared in the Oct. 26, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.