Digital MarketingDigital AdvertisingHow publishers can adapt in times of COVID-19

How publishers can adapt in times of COVID-19

Shrikant R Kale, co-founder of iZooto, shows how publishers can adapt and find new opportunities in times of COVID-19.

30-second summary:

  • The widespread uncertainty brought on by this crisis has made both businesses and customers particularly wary about their spendings. For digital publishers, this has created various challenging realities.
  • As the number of visitors surges, building up your marketing list will forge a powerful and long-lasting communication bridge. This will also enable you to progressively collect data and reach out with personalized notifications and incentives – the key to engaging the digital reader.
  • Publishers should remember that during these times, it’s not important to sell – but to be empathetic – and your content should reflect that.
  • Publishers also need to have an active social media presence. According to Global Web Index, consumers are now spending more time on messaging services and almost 45% of them are devoting more time to social media.
  • Chances are that your audience is now consuming more videos, podcasts, live streams, and webinars. So be creative with your content, and leverage tools like web push notifications to bring attention to it.

Social distancing during COVID-19 is likely to bring a 60% rise in media consumption, according to Nielsen.

Digital media and entertainment are now the primary allies of millions of people staying at home. But to get their attention, publishers need to do more than just covering the news.

To engage a quarantined audience, you need to adopt a brand new strategy centered around a human, light-hearted, and patient approach.

Times like these present a great opportunity to really be there for your readers and invest in nurturing close connections that will last beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Instead of a merely reactive approach, what can publishers do to successfully lead their audience through these trying times?

As ad revenue plunges during COVID-19, focus on the long term

The widespread uncertainty brought on by this crisis has made both businesses and customers particularly wary about their spendings. For digital publishers, this has created various challenging realities.

Despite the overall increase in traffic, their ad revenue has decreased by some 33%. In the global context, this is caused by the ad spend going down $20 billion from the beginning of the year.

While this might seem like a painful hit, there’s no time to lick the wounds. With almost everyone at home, using their devices, browsing, reading, and interacting, it’s a great time to step up with building your audience.

As the number of visitors surges, building up your marketing list will forge a powerful and long-lasting communication bridge. This will also enable you to progressively collect data and reach out with personalized notifications and incentives – the key to engaging the digital reader.

Many people are now battling emotions like anxiety, stress, loneliness, and boredom – so make your website a hub of information, value, entertainment, and community.

Include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) and guide readers towards the best experience. Whether it’s push notifications or email newsletters, a strong opt-in incentive will become your springboard for getting more subscribers in the future.

While some publications are looking to boost their subscriptions, know that it’s just as important to share your content with new audiences.

For example, the Wall Street Journal has created a standalone section of free COVID-19 content with interactive formatting and Q&A and encouraged readers to multiply this content further through social media shares.

The New York Times, on the other hand, is exchanging free content for information; it requests the visitors to register to access articles, but any COVID-19 coverage doesn’t count towards the paywall meter.

Shift your COVID-19 content strategy accordingly

The pandemic has had a massive impact on global markets and individuals alike, so it would be a mistake to assume that your content strategy will go unimpacted. You shouldn’t avoid the topic, but don’t dwell on negativity either.

Publishers should find ways to bring their audience information, positivity, and valuable advice. These days, content around exercise, health, self-care, personal hygiene, and entertainment, is bound to score big.

For example, BuzzFeed is dividing its content into three categories: coverage of the COVID-19, quarantine and lockdown support, and counter programming.

This seems to pay off: The platform is seeing some of its highest unique visitor numbers ever, and the COVID-19 coverage, while only accounting for 20% of all posts drove 67% of all traffic in March.

Publishers should remember that during these times, it’s not important to sell – but to be empathetic – and your content should reflect that.

For example, the first welcome notification or email shouldn’t overwhelm the user with a list of articles to check out; it should be as simple and humane as possible. Start off with a simple message and guide them towards the most important sources they might find useful during these times.

Drive engagement with different channels and formats 

Every single channel publishers possess should have a different purpose, and all should have a clearly defined role that fits the current crisis landscape.

Emails are still going strong and represent the ultimate touchpoint with your audience. So, if you had a canceled event, important updates to share, or any other announcements to make, it’s your safest bet.

However, always be careful to choose a newsworthy message – you don’t want to send out emails just for the sake of it.

Publishers also need to have an active social media presence. According to Global Web Index, consumers are now spending more time on messaging services and almost 45% of them are devoting more time to social media.

That’s why you should try out tools like messenger push notifications – they present a great opportunity to engage the user in a casual environment.

It’s also a great time to drive different formats – especially those that closely correspond with the current shifts in consumer behavior.

Chances are that your audience is now consuming more videos, podcasts, live streams, and webinars. So be creative with your content, and leverage tools like web push notifications to bring attention to it.

In the past weeks, we have seen different publishers pushing different strategies. However, all their efforts have one thing in common: They are heavily centered around building and strengthening the readership communities. Why not do the same for your audience?

Shrikant R Kale, is the co-founder of iZooto, an owned audience marketing platform that helps publishers build, engage, and retain their audience using web push notifications. An IIM-C product, he is looked up to for his dedication and calm demeanor. 

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