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Traffic in the time of Covid-19

Scott Howland | 30 March 2020 | Read time: 4 minutes
Topics | Paywalls, subscription model, dynamic paywall, subscription economy, first party data

Talking to media and publishing companies during this COVID-19 period, it’s clear that there is a strange antinomy. Traffic is up, with 20-50% increases in page views rapidly becoming the new normal. This massive hike makes sense - after all, there’s an enormous number of concerned people out there who are searching for and reading about coronavirus. On top of that, we’re all in ‘lockdown’ and working from home, which means we’re browsing more sites than usual. However, monetizing this leap in audience and attention is another challenge altogether.

Advertisers are blocking terms like ‘coronavirus’ and ‘covid19’, worried about their brand being exposed alongside tragic stories related to the pandemic. Meanwhile, content creators, marketers and even some of the more enlightened influencers out there are rightly wary of looking like they are attempting to cash-in on chaos, suffering and hardship. 

As a result, despite more eyeballs looking at more pages, publishers are still struggling to make content pay. Once again, we are reminded of the old adage - “reach is vanity, revenue is sanity”. So how about we look at this a different way? Perhaps an asymmetric perspective could reveal the opportunity?  

What we know is that, following on from the recent announcements by Google and Safari, third-party cookies are on their way out. As recently as last week Apple announced a doubling down on efforts to remove workarounds such as browser fingerprinting and CNAMEs! What this heralds is that, sooner rather than later, publishers and media companies with quality first-party customer data - based on a direct, permission-based relationship with the consumer - will find themselves with an advantage. And a golden opportunity to capitalize on it.

Businesses that can ride this surge of highly engaged anonymous users and satisfy their demand for information - while nurturing them and transitioning them to a known state through optimised, frictionless registration journeys - can unlock significant upsides. These upsides will be spread across the entire monetisation mix as richer user data accelerates revenue growth in terms of increased ad yields, while also building a rapidly expanding prospect pool with an increased propensity to subscribe to the news brands that have helped them navigate this difficult time. 

A capability to move browsers from anonymous to known or registered would also help future-proof ad revenues against the impending third-party cookie apocalypse. Acting now to enable the diversification of revenue streams in the future is fast becoming a strategic imperative. Building the capability to nurture prospective customer relationships into subscriptions, memberships, data-driven e-commerce and affiliate sales, or greater direct advertising revenue, should be the objective. And engaged, informed and loyal subscribers driving increased ARPU and LTV will be the outcome. 

And the longer the pandemic goes on, the more of a “news habit” people will develop, and the greater their desire to stay on top of the global events that  shape our societies. The media has taken a beating of late over fake news, hacking, etc., but it’s at times like these that people are reminded of the importance of a dynamic, vibrant and trusted publishing sector that keeps us informed, aware and helps to bring cohesion to society and communities. Failing to grasp that opportunity in good faith and with the best intentions would be a shame.

If you’d like to discuss how taking visitors on a journey from unknown to known can benefit your content business, then we’re open all hours - while social distancing and working from home. Just drop us a line...


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