How COVID-19 is Affecting Publishers

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People everywhere have turned their attention to news about the spread of COVID-19, news covering government updates in response to the crisis, and the massive migration to different levels of quarantine across the globe.

Publishers everywhere are our front lines of communication and information at every turn of events, and people are listening—we’ve seen an 75-87% spike in readership about coronavirus related topics in different countries in just the last month.

But the global pandemic has affected publishers beyond readership related to COVID-19. We’ve taken a deep dive into the Taboola network, which supports thousands of publishers globally, and discovered some new trends in audience engagement and content interest affecting publishers everywhere.

There’s an overall increase in publisher engagement.

Coronavirus related content or not, publishers have seen an uptick in traffic and engagement with content across the board in the U.S.

There’s been an influx of interest and engagement:

  • 8% increase in unique readers
  • 14% increase in page views
  • 25% increase in time on page

A lot of this growth can be attributed to news related to COVID-19, but some other content categories are growing beyond their typical readership as they’re caught up in the news cycle.

There’s been a spike in interest of local news, business and government-related content.

The COVID-19 news cycle has brought some other news categories along for the ride.

We’ve taken a look by content category and compared the average number of unique users each quarter to the number of unique users over the last week.

Here’s the breakdown:

In the U.S., people are taking a much bigger interest in news related to their local government as they take action in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases, and in business news as the stock market falls.

Falling closely behind those frontrunners—politics, general news, lifestyle and technology and computing content are seeing an increase in readership as the world adjusts to staying home more than usual.

Here’s how each category has grown:

  • Business news: 69% increase
  • Local News: 53% increase
  • Government & Politics: 49% increase
  • General News: 12% increase
  • Lifestyle: 4% increase
  • Technology and Computing: 1% increase

Here are some popular stories we’ve seen circulating on our network in these categories in the last seven days:

Some other categories have fallen slightly behind. Gaming, personal finance, sports and arts and entertainment have all taken a back seat in the rush for more Coronavirus-related information.

How Publishers Are Responding to Reader’s Needs—And Proof That It’s Working

Publishers are specifically responding to four differences we’ve seen in the past few weeks—the spike in traffic to publisher sites, an e-commerce boom, events around the globe being cancelled, and an at-home fitness trend.

Here are just some examples of how publishers are responding to reader’s needs:

  • The Wall Street Journal has a stand alone free section of Coronavirus related content, Q&As and videos.
  • The Wrap has provided four times the amount of exclusive content to pro members in the last month.
  • Stat news has taken all Coronavirus-related content out from behind its paywall, and traffic soared 225% over the first two months of the year.
  • New York Media’s The Strategist is leaning into e-commerce with guides that detail products to purchase for an emergency, and more.
  • Business Insider, CNET, Wired, Gizmodo, T3 and many more publishers are also jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon, pulling together lists of work from home gear or the best office chairs.
  • Protocol just launched a series of virtual meetups, to help fill the event void.
  • The Texas Tribune has launched virtual events and talk with their journalists in place of in-person events.
  • PopSugar Fitness moved up their launch of Active, a subscription online workout class platform, and is not initially charge the subscription fee.
  • Mindbodygreen moved five of its best-selling e-learning classes in front of the paywall.
  • Hearst Magazines extended its free-trial period of its All / Out Studio subscription video workout app from seven days to 30.

It’s looking like these efforts aren’t in vain. Despite relaxing paywalls, Bloomberg and The Atlantic have seen an increase in subscriptionsAffiliate revenue from e-commerce content is helpful while revenue streams are in flux. People are responding to virtual events and sinking in to home workout routines.

In this time of crisis, people are looking to publishers to provide them information about COVID-19, entertainment, and ideas on how to make the best of a country living mostly inside.

Those that continue to innovate and find new ways to respond creatively and empathetically will be successful in engaging audiences and driving revenue in the days to come.

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