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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Creativity in the face of a crisis

April 22, 2020 | By Tim Bourgeois — Digital Media Auditor and Consultant @ChiefDigOfficer

It is, of course, folly to try to sugarcoat the current reality of the media marketplace: It ain’t good. And there isn’t a clear path to the other side of what we’re currently experiencing. Heck, even Facebook and Google are expected to contract a bit in the wake of Covid-19. 

But, as one of my long-time collaborators told me last week, “Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Or something like that.” And then we discussed the new venture he’s planning to launch next month. While being sensitive to avoid the appearance of profiteering in the face of a heinous outbreak, here are a few ideas to consider in between video calls.  

Audience isn’t a challenge these days, but staying relevant is

We know that people — both media buyers at brands and content consumers — have more free time these days. We also know are spending more time with media. In large part, they’re looking for diversions from the gloom, doom and incendiary rhetoric that characterizes much of the news. Therein lies an opportunity to strengthen relationships through creative engagement using tactics that have difficulty gaining traction during normal times. Maybe because they require significant audience engagement or unique skills to produce — like surveys, panels, video shorts, and virtual events. There’s a whole new swath of audience available that is normally too busy or distracted. Right now, we can have meaningful interactions and shore up our long-term relationships. 

Most digital properties are underutilized and can benefit from optimization focus

It’s human nature to focus on the new and shiny. Unfortunately, that’s often to the detriment of valuable opportunities right in front of us. Now is an opportune time to do a structured assessment of properties in the portfolio. It’s time to identify opportunities for improvement, and implement them. In general, property tune-ups can yield 10%-30% bumps in traffic and engagement within weeks. This has obvious myriad downstream benefits. And when you’re done with the tuneup, start thinking about those promotional tactics that you’ve been putting off for years. (For ideas, see The other side of advertising: Why publishers need to think more about self-promotion.)

Online media consumption behavior is shifting, opening up new opportunities

Though media consumption is up, there’s no shortage of calls to minimize news consumption and find other things to do, for mental health or other reasons. So audiences are turning to social media and video platforms via websites as opposed to apps — at the rate of 15% or more. Many a bold and compelling digital concept have been squashed over the past decade because it was too difficult to jam into an app that would work on a smartphone. This could be an opportune time to dust off the business plan and get it into production. This is both because of increased audience and also the availability of reasonably priced web designers and developers.

Market shifts underway make it tough to be a niche publisher

If you work in media, the only thing worse than being a big company executive right now is being a small company executive. These factors are not unique to publishing. We know they are wreaking havoc in the travel, entertainment, and manufacturing industries as well, among many others. But the cold reality is that larger companies are in a better position to ride out market fluctuations due to their cash reserves, borrowing power, and contract discipline. And that makes it an opportune time to be on the hunt for acquisitions, greenlight new projects, and aggressively strengthen existing customer relationships and pursue new ones.

The foreseeable future is going to present formidable challenges for media organizations of all shapes and sizes. However, there are aspects of the environment that present new opportunities, too. And shrewd companies will exploit them and come out on the other side stronger. 

About the author

Tim Bourgeois is a marketing advisor who helps brands optimize ROI on advertising, technology and agency investments through media audits and strategy engagements.

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