The world is changing and will probably never be the same again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many will hear or read the (usually negative) headlines about how different industries are being impacted. The future of media companies is, as always, hard to predict.
There will be a change in how consumers want to interact during and after this pandemic. High quality, trusted and valued content is more important now than ever.
This is the first of a four-part blog series, based on the BrightGen report, The New Rules of Advertising. We released the report before the outbreak of the pandemic, but the theme remains the same. Digitalisation is central to surviving – and thriving – as a publisher in the 2020s.
People need trusted and relevant information
Martin Jönsson is the Head of Editorial Development at Sweden’s leading quality daily, Dagens Nyheter (DN) – owned by Bonnier AB. Jönsson spoke to the World Association of News Publishers about how the pandemic has affected them. Approximately 90% of the publisher’s employees are working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. He pointed out:
“We are seeing dramatic growth in traffic and digital subscriptions amid this crisis”
Is the growth that Jönsson describes a one-off, due to the pandemic? Or is it symptomatic of a wider change in consumption and behaviour? A lot of media companies have reported increased traffic and interactions from users. Just look at this recent article from the NY Times; the statistics are quite incredible!
The search for updates on the virus pushed up views for local and established newspapers, in some cases by 150%. Is this down to fake news and that people in these troubled times want access to quality/trusted content?
According to the article, “Among the biggest beneficiaries are local news sites, with huge jumps in traffic as people try to learn how the pandemic is affecting their home towns”. This trend is global, with The Guardian reporting, “The coronavirus pandemic has led to a spike in traffic to news websites, with Guardian Australia experiencing the biggest surge in the Australian market”.
Print media has suffered during this period of no human contact. But those news sites that were already digital will see a different story. People want news… The trick will be in how publishers can hold on to these new readers.
The supporter model
The supporter model is a funding model that was championed by The Guardian. It has proven to be successful in helping to revolutionise their finances. This model has now been taken up by many other publishers as they increase traffic and interactions.
Consumers are realising that if they want the content they value, they need to support it. Becoming a supporter of what you value and use is now quite a normal occurrence. This is increasing as a business model for publishers with valued content. Subscriptions are also growing due to the same reason. If a consumer values and has reason to use something, the subscription model is now part of everyday life (with the likes of Netflix, Disney+, etc).
Digital advertising used to be a primary source of income for online media channels. But soon Facebook and Google overtook most of the investment in advertising. Media companies responded to this by increasing their reliance on digital subscriptions.
Providing a valuable source of information is key to making consumers want to part with their money and purchase a subscription. “Clickbait” is not valuable. What this will do to the world of low-end programmatic advertising remains to be seen. Advertising goes hand-in-hand with great content and loyal audiences, which businesses use to connect to their products.
People are willing to pay for something which provides them with a benefit or an advantage. Potentially increased by the pandemic, people want to support local companies.
This global pandemic might actually benefit small local publishers in their time of most need with exactly what they have been looking for so long: a new stream of income! It is essential that these publishers identify this and look to provide a great user experience and valued content. Otherwise those users will just drift away again when this is over.
Read our next blog in the series to find out more about the future of media companies. In the meantime, you can download our report, The New Rules of Advertising: Surviving – and Thriving as a Publisher in the 2020s.