During these times of self-isolation and lockdown, we decided to host a weekly Zephr Coffee Club and get people together. The idea was to gather media and publishing professionals to connect and exchange ideas, tackling the latest challenges we are seeing. This was our first session and although the theme was Revenue Diversification, we enjoyed a great conversation which went beyond that, focusing on how our daily lives have changed since Covid-19 hit us all. Here is what we learned...
Working from home full-time is an unprecedented situation for most of us. Even people who were previously doing it quite often are finding that everything is different now. The main challenge seems to be the number of hats each of us has to wear at home - like being parents, for instance - whilst staying concentrated, professional and productive on work-related tasks at the same time.
As Slack, Zoom and Hangouts meetings have taken over, it’s crucial to adapt and manage both ours and our colleagues' time efficiently, not wasting half an hour (or even a whole hour) slots on a simple catch-up that would have taken no more than 5 minutes at the office. Having said that, at the end of the day we are all adapting so it’s going to take a little while to get good at this and we’re all in the same boat!
Katrina Broster and Amrit Baidwan from Dennis Publishing, along with Debora Brooksbank-Taylor from New Scientist had an insightful discussion around the impact of COVID-19 on subscriptions. Both businesses are experiencing significant subscription growth at this time, as have the likes of WSJ, Bloomberg and The Atlantic which also saw subscription spikes, as reported by Digiday. Based on conversations we had with other publishers, traffic is increasing week on week (by between 25 - 50%!) due to the fact that people are spending more time online and have an increased desire to consume trusted content.
Despite the positive numbers on subscriptions and traffic, advertising revenue has taken a hit as many brands do not wish to showcase their ads next to COVID-19 content (for brand safety reasons), which has led to lower demand and lower eCPMs.
The key question is, in what ways can this increase in traffic be monetised? It seems like now is the perfect time for publishers to start experimenting with registration and “datawalls” in order to get to know their anonymous visitors, obtaining 1st-party data and delivering better, more relevant display and house advertising over time.
Shannan Bowen from McClatchy joined the conversation and shared that the publishing group has launched a registration wall across two titles (applied to news items not related to the virus) and that in less than 24 hours this resulted in hundreds of sign-ups and opt-ins. Clearly, on arrival, people are willing to exchange some information on who they are in order to interact with the wider content base offered by a publisher.
In the long term, the more a media business knows about its users, the better placed it is to serve them and convert them into members or customers. And frictionless registration mechanics such as social sign-in can make the experience so smooth and frictionless that these reactive strategies can deliver some great long-term results for brands willing to experiment with them.
Another interesting idea related to the challenges of working from home was brought up by Pablo Altieri from Diagonal Minds (who joined us all the way from Argentina!). He shared that based on his work with media companies, there is a lot of interest in casual games like crosswords, with traffic to this type of content going through the roof. A lot of media companies are already jumping on that opportunity and exploring the best way to raise awareness of existing applications or introduce new entertainment-based content. It’s been something that newspapers such as The Times and The New York Times have been successfully monetising for a number of years and is responsible for a significant chunk of their digital revenue.
Zephr Coffee Club will be running weekly, Thursday’s, and the format going forward will be two or three lightning talks (5 min max.) per session. If you would like to join us at the next session, or you have a lightning talk that you think might be suitable, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org - we’d be delighted to have you join us!