Publishers Adapt as COVID-19 Impact on Ad Budgets Varies by Industry

In 2019, worldwide advertisers spent over $560 billion with every indication that 2020 ad spend would knock that figure out of the water. Then COVID-19 hit, and analysts are managing their expectations, calling for a 7% rise rather than 7.4%, which they might adjust down based on this evolving situation.

You may consider that optimistic with most of the world on a corona virus lock-down. Your own ad revenues have already fallen off a cliff. But there's still some room for qualified optimism. Here are some aspects publishers should consider for short term and long term planning.

Travel and Hospitality Hit Hard

The travel and hospitality industries have certainly taken a hit, and the recent announcement regarding the postponement of the Summer Olympics created a greater dent in ad spend. While experts expect a dip now, many expect a travel boom once this blows over. We have millions of people who've been stuck at home for a couple of months who are itching to go somewhere. And we're already seeing major publishers like Harper's Bazaar playing to this audience by asking them to begin planning their next trip for the post-quarantine era.

After taking such a hit, these companies will be competing to lure these eager travelers through advertising. Even if we see some economic contraction in the short term, we should see this quick expansion.

Certain Industries Stealing the Spotlight

At least for now, people are spending less out-of-home. They're more focused on being as comfortable and stress-free as possible at home. That includes physical needs like masks and hand sanitizer, but also the stars of the hour such as online and in-home:

  • mental health services
  • cooking courses
  • entertainment
  • meal-planning
  • home delivery

Meal planning services have gotten a huge boost of around 67% week-over-week. In-store traffic may be dropping, but some industries are thriving.

Other Industries Adapting

We're also seeing a lot of industries quickly adapting to the changing retail and environments. Marketing and Ad agencies are changing too to reflect the conditions on the ground. They're no strangers to disruption and will quickly adapt.

Some are cutting their CPM budget in the short-term. But others are just shifting that spend to reach customers within the current environment. AdWeek has reported that as more people are stuck at home, old-school TV advertising is making a bit of a comeback. Many agencies are shifting their ad spend toward TV programming as a result.

And we're seeing an explosion in technology use as ZOOM and Hangouts replace huddling in someone's cubicle. For example, ZOOM, a video conferencing and collaboration app, added 2.22 million users in the past month, more than all of 2019.

This re-tooling of industry taking place as a result of COVID-19 creates a lull now. But as these businesses re-calibrate, we'll continue to see higher spend on marketing and CPM.

Some Publishers are Growing Subscriptions and Engagement

NeimanLab reports The Atlantic has had record site traffic in March 2020. Their 168 million pageviews in March doubles their previous one-month record. Notably, even as they have lifted their paywall restriction for coronavirus coverage, their paid subscriptions have jumped 36,000 in the past 4 weeks. Mather Economics reports that over the previous month, digital subscription volumes have accelerated, driving total circulation growth of 3.32%. These numbers can fuel long-term revenue prospects and deepen relationships with readers.

Local Media Consortium reports a strong response to their COVID-19 Local News Fund initiative. In less than two weeks from launching the concept, $48,000 has come in, and some partners are just starting to roll out their campaigns. Kicked off by a personal appeal from the publisher, and leveraging reader email lists, the Examiner newspapers of NY Putnam and Westchester countries raised $10,000 in 3 days, and received great feedback from their most engaged visitors.

COVID-19 Forcing Publishers to Adapt

Publishers, given the impact of COVID-19 on the ad industry, it's time to play the long game for big ad revenues.

Right now, many people are stuck at home and consuming massive amounts of online content. Site traffic is up for many publishers. So this is a great time to build trust and a following as a publisher, showing you're not going away. Whatever your niche is, you can create highly relevant content for the corona virus obsessed masses right now. This will pay you back in ad revenues a short slide down the road. Many publishers are experiencing success with new paid subscription campaigns, and local news organizations have seen results from donation campaigns to support COVID-19 coverage.

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