Strapping computer monitors to your back and cycling halfway across the city to deliver them to reporters working from home is not your everyday task for the executive editor of one of Europe’s most influential publishers. But that’s exactly what happened at the start of the pandemic, we were told at ‘Oktoberfest At Home with Taboola’ last week.

“It was all hands to the pump!”

Oktoberfest At Home with Taboola was Taboola’s first ever virtual event for publishers.

It brought together an amazing 90 participants from publisher partners across EMEA including France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Why We Hosted This

With a touch of Lederhosen and some Bavarian beer and music to set the scene, our exclusive digital event was a rare opportunity for publishers to share key editorial, data and subscription insights from the last six months in a relaxed and collaborative environment.

Plus, we provided a sneak peek into some of the latest product innovations from Newsroom, Taboola’s audience analytics platform that is currently used by 550 premium publisher sites across the world.

Like everyone else, the digital publishing industry had to adapt quickly once the Coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic. Journalists had to operate remotely from home, new workflows were introduced and digital communication tools refined.

But the biggest challenge throughout was meeting the needs of their digital audiences – with data analytics playing a key role in understanding user behavior and new content preferences.

A Virtual Oktoberfest Agenda

We were excited to welcome guest speakers from three of Europe’s most high-profile digital publishers: Lucie McInerney, assistant editor at The Independent in the UK, Max Miguletz, Head of Newsroom at Sport1 in Germany and Michaël Bourguignon, Revenues and Digital Director for the La Dépêche Group in France.

We began the event by showing a graph illustrating the ‘Corona Bump’ in website traffic experienced by most digital publishers between March and April, when users flocked to dedicated news platforms for accurate and trustworthy information as the Coronavirus swept uncontrollably across the globe. This rise in traffic was mirrored by an increase in digital subscriptions for those publishers with paywalls – a welcome boost from reader revenue.

Next, we discussed how Taboola has been tracking readership trends throughout the pandemic. On our Newsroom platform, we noticed some significant changes in content consumption across the network of publishers we work with, some of these changes continuing long after the initial peak in traffic: real-time readership trends reflecting real-life changes.

Newsroom’s new ‘Terms Explorer’ data insight tool was unveiled at the event, which has revealed a number of new readership interests over the past few months, ranging from internet security to credit card concerns and overdrafts, how to cut your own hair, the best TV streaming service to get, studying for a degree remotely, and much more.

Many of these content themes were reflected by our speakers, who told how audience data played a crucial part in navigating through the sudden change in content consumption.

Some Key Event Takeaways (All Under Chatham House Rules, Of Course):

We learned a lot during our virtual Oktoberfest celebration, and we’re summing up just a few of the excellent takeaways here:

  • It became crucial to analyse the new information people were seeking online and use that insight to create effective workflows and cover content that readers needed to cope with everyday life. Beyond the actual virus, publishers wrote about everything from ways to entertain yourself during lockdown to how to maintain your fitness.
  • Despite operating digitally for many years, going into lockdown was still a big transition. Ensuring that journalists had the proper hardware to work with was key (hence the cycling executive editor!), as was maintaining communication throughout, using Zoom video calls to complement Slack instant messaging.
  • Providing personalised access and individual logins to audience analytics tools such as Newsroom (often displayed on monitors on the editorial floor) was also vital so all journalists had real-time insight into user behaviour, referral data and article engagement metrics – crucial information for fine tuning content production when working from home.
  • With a lack of live sport, publishers had to pivot to different content formats to stay relevant and re-shape their websites for the future. This included launching podcasts featuring athletes at home during lockdown, substituting live video footage with Esports clips, and creating snackable content for social media platforms, including TikTok, to keep the audience engaged.
  • For websites with paywalls, we heard how the market was highly competitive, with many news outlets introducing their own digital subscription offers and publishers competing for readers’ time and money with streaming giants such as Netflix, particularly during lockdown.
  • We learned how one publisher was working closely with Taboola to understand which articles were converting their users into subscribers; and how those ‘high-converting’ articles were being recommended in the Taboola feed using an algorithm to display them at significant readership moments – increasing subscriptions by 30% during a recent test.
  • With many publishers temporarily dropping their paywalls at the start of the pandemic to showcase their content to the new influx of site visitors, it was interesting to hear how journalists were constantly looking at which articles should be free, and which should be paid for, using various criteria including title, article length, exclusivity and expertise, even byline.

Prost to The Future Ahead

As Taboola’s Founder and CEO Adam Singolda said at the start of the event, ‘People miss People’ and to have Oktoberfest at Home With Taboola, our first virtual event, so well-attended was incredible to see.

Thanks to everyone who came and congratulations to our fantastic speakers who were the stars of the show.

If you would like to know more about Newsroom’s new ‘Terms Explorer’ tool and learn how to discover readership trends across the open web, we’d love to hear from you.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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