2020 Year in Review (and a Look Ahead…)

By Joe HyrkinDecember 30, 2020Editorial

2020 Year in Review (and a Look Ahead…) 


2020 has been a challenging year. Like many of us, I’ve repeatedly thought about how much I’m anticipating the end of 2020 and looking forward to 2021. Between the pandemic, a global recession, remote learning for our kids, political chaos, and heightened racial inequity, it’s been a year few of us will ever forget.  

When faced with such profound challenges in life, we often feel like we won’t be able to overcome them. But the truth is, most of us have overcome challenges throughout our lives. While each challenge is unique, in getting through them in the past, we’ve actually exercised the muscle required to get through this next one. If we can remember that, we can buoy ourselves, gather our strength, support each other, and move forward—often with a grace we didn’t know was available to us.

This year through it all, we’ve also seen some of the best of ourselves and others. I think many of us have experienced a resiliency and level of care for each other that we didn’t know we had in us. Vaccines have brought new optimism. The effects of the pandemic are bound to linger for a long time—on the way we work, the way our kids learn, the way we fight for social justice, and on how we rebuild our neighborhoods and towns from the economic devastation of many small businesses. And how we recover from the loss of loved ones and reconnect with each other as human beings.

cartoon blue and orange tiger growling

My greatest hope from 2020 is that we don’t just move on or get back to “normal.”  My hope is that we commit to learning more about the people and world around us, that each day we recommit to learning more deeply, connecting more fully, and caring more for the people with whom we come into contact every day. These are commitments we can make each day. While 2020 was a challenge across the board, let’s not just move on to 2021. Let’s harness the learnings, the care, and the resiliency. Let’s expand what we’ve experienced this year to create a new normal which is about the hard work of making the structural changes we need to put in place to be able to embrace each other and to look for and see the value in each other.

Issuu is a company of just under 100 people with offices in the US, Denmark, and Berlin. We’ve made adjustments throughout the year in how we work. In particular, we’ve been focused on how to keep providing an important service that enables businesses and creators around the world to rely on us—to make sure your stories and content are shared in a range of formats across multiple channels and digital canvas’. 

Issuu is proud to be the publishing platform of choice for upstanding organizations to provide COVID-19 research, health services, and more critical information at the pandemic’s onset and this type of content continues to be added daily. We also are proud that our platform has always elevated marginalized voices and celebrates storytelling about diversity, hard work, and challenging the status quo—especially in a year when we are redefining “normal.”

We believe in the power of digital connections, and it’s no surprise to us that many companies, brands, and individuals turned to our platform as a way to create and distribute meaningful content. The number of first-time creators on Issuu tripled as content creators expanded their content marketing to improve customer communications during these uncertain times, increase employee engagement, as a creative outlet, and more. The total number of new content published also increased by 160 percent, speaking to the need for creators to share stories digitally.

I voted sticker, mail in voting and a housefly

Back in March, we were facing the same “Great Unknown” as everyone else. But then suddenly we noticed increased new activity across Issuu.

First, we started to see a flood of menus being posted as restaurants scrambled to respond to online ordering and takeout needs. Some even posted QR codes of Issuu formatted menus in storefront windows so patrons could view the menu and order food over the phone from the safety of their cars.

We also noticed an influx of real estate brochures, property flyers, and market reports from Realtors. With restrictions on in-person showings and office walk-ins, the entire real estate industry began to adjust their sales process. 

Events and tradeshows went virtual too, driving an increase in virtual guides and sponsor’s marketing materials hosted through Issuu. And corporate content marketers looked for a way to make their previously printed collateral digitally available (and discovering how easy it is to turn them into derivative social assets!).

When stay-at-home orders went into place around the world, physical printers shut down and Issuu opened up Digital Sales, one of our most popular and powerful features to all customers. Content creators who normally sell physical media needed a seamless way to sell their content digitally. Between March-September 2020, sales of digital publication units via Issuu increased by 841 percent, increasing revenue opportunities for those publishers. We also announced that Issuu Digital Sales would become permanently commission-free this past October, as a way to provide a reliable system to those who most needed it.

Throughout the year, we were proud to see publishers tap the Issuu Story Cloud to tell their stories through social media, which saw a large increase in usage during the lockdowns. In 2020, Issuu publishers created eight times as many mobile-optimized Article Stories that are perfect for readers to consume while scrolling through social media feeds. And our dynamic Visual Story format, that can be shared as a social story to Facebook and Instagram, saw creation increase by over 400 percent. Issuu transforms content from digital formats including PDFs into pixel-perfect formats for all social sites from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest to TikTok, Linkedin, and more, so our customers can engage their readers on the channels they use the most.

tired cartoon person

Upon reflection of this year, I find myself most affected by the summer’s social protests to create real change and equity in the United States and the ripple effect around the world. As I said at the time, many of us had hoped to get back to our workplace and our pre-COVID, “normal” lives, but the killing of George Floyd and so many others remind us that at this moment, our collective focus needs to be on change at a much bigger scale. Here at Issuu, we will continue to learn from and listen to the organizations fighting to build a “new normal” for racial equity and social justice and built on a foundation of seeing and appreciating each other’s value.

I am inspired by all of the people who rose up to tackle the challenges of the global pandemic, the uncertain economy, ongoing social injustices, and more—all while learning to social distance and work remotely. The stories on social media and platforms such as Issuu of frontline healthcare workers, community leaders, and everyday heroes are a reminder of the strength of humanity and our ability to transform the darkest days into opportunities and learnings. Issuu will continue to elevate critical COVID-19 informational resources, editorial content on the societal issues that are affecting the globe, and content that uplifts including self-care, art, hobbies, mental well-being. We will also focus on building the best-in-class content marketing platform that meets the needs of our customers to create and share meaningful content in digital formats.

Looking forward to 2021, we have big plans. On the product front, expect to see continued expansion of both input-and-output efforts, new ways to create compelling content, and new ways to distribute it. And our team is also growing quickly —if you’d like to join us, check out our careers page.

Most importantly of all, I hope we can all learn and grow together. We all have a chance to be more present to each other, more aware of each other’s needs and challenges because of what we’ve learned during 2020. Let’s hold on to the learnings and move forward with care.

Happy New Year,  

Joe Hyrkin

CEO, Issuu