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Covid-19 presents opportunities for audience-focused publishers

October 20, 2020 | By Rande Price, Research Director – DCN @Randeloo

A life-changing event is when something happens that reshapes everything in your life. And many people see the pandemic as a life-changing event. We’ve altered our work environment, transformed our social behavior, and changed our media habits. However, according to Damien Radcliffe’s new report The Publisher’s Guide to Navigating Covid-19, some Covid-era changes will become new norms. To capitalize on these opportunities, publishers need to emphasize their audience-first focus.

Key findings:

Renewed consumer focus

Businesses across different sectors are reporting negative financial impact due to Covid-19. The most significant revenue declines to date, according to WARC, are travel and tourism (-31%), leisure and entertainment (-29%), finance services (-18%), and retail (-15%).

Within the entertainment sector, the media business is showing financial declines for the year. GroupM expects the US advertising market performance to decline 13% this year (excluding political advertising for 2020’s presidential and other elections). WARC estimates advertising growth for three specific media platforms: social media, online video and search. The hardest hit medium will be newspapers. PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2020-2024 report estimates newspaper advertising (print and online) in the U.K. will register a decline of 27% over the next five years Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2020-2024 report estimates newspaper advertising (print and online) in the U.K. will register a decline of 27% over the next five years.

With a downturn in advertising, publishers see the importance of a renewed focus on the audience. By doing so, they can accelerate their efforts to establish new revenue streams to lessen their dependency on advertising — an industry imperative that has come into even sharper focus of late. Finding the right path to fulfill audience needs can help publisher identify new revenue opportunities.

Audience-first directs path to new revenue

By all reports, consumption of content increased during the pandemic. In part, working from home during Covid-19 offered the audience more opportunities to consume content. There were marked rises in internet usage and streaming video viewing. Even local news publishers are benefitting from consumer interest in information relating to Covid-19 in their neighborhood.

Further, record traffic metrics and increased subscriptions illustrate a strong and trusted relationship between publisher and consumer. Publishers are also experiencing churn improvement according to Piano, a digital analytics company. Piano’s data analysis shows that U.S. publishers’ churn rate is flat and European publishers’ churn rate declined 34%.

Unfortunately, increased media usage alone does not equate to increased revenue. However, an engaged audience, producing less churn, can help direct a path to subscriptions, new product launches, and other monetization opportunities.

Getting back to normal

Even amidst the ongoing pandemic, consumers are trying to return to some sense of normal. According to a GlobalWebIndex (GWI) survey of more than 17,000 internet users in 20 countries, consumers no longer want to see Covid-related ad messaging. Further, Pew Research reports that 71% of US consumers say they need to take a break from news about the coronavirus. A full 43% report that news leaves them emotionally drained. Consumers are seeking out new content as a pathway to escapism.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has profoundly impacted consumer media habits. The increase in content consumption and subscriptions, cannot be taken for granted. Consumer boredom and discretionary income can easily change given today’s social and economic vulnerabilities. By renewing their audience-first strategy allows publishers will be able to focus on avenues for new revenue.

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