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3 Ways News Publishers are Innovating in the Face of COVID-19 Content Blocking

What if we told you that more website traffic can actually be a bad thing?

That’s the reality that news publishers are dealing with today due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Buzzfeed claims traffic is “unprecedented” and the traffic results are echoed by the rest of the news media. Unfortunately, this surge is also coinciding with unprecedented levels of keyword blocking by advertisers due to a hesitance to associate their brands with the novel coronavirus.

With no medical end in sight, website traffic will continue to be dominated by readers interested in content about the global health crisis. Therefore, trusted news publishers are tasked with finding alternative ways to retain revenue, employees and journalistic horsepower.

Accelerating the launch of subscription models

Valuable reporting is not free, and news publishers are reminding their users in subtle ways. On stories related to the coronavirus, some sites are reaching out to readers to remind them of the valuable public service their content is providing. What’s also included is a call to action that encourages paid membership or newsletter subscriptions. In this case, the pandemic is simply accelerating a trend that was already on the rise.

According to rapidly growing digital subscription numbers, industry giants have proved that people are willing to pay for trusted information. In amateur creative and content spaces, platforms like Patreon are also growing. Diversification of revenue between subscriptions and advertising is only going to prove healthier for the news industry, and the current landscape serves as a blunt way to remind us of that.

Diversifying content strategies adjacent to global issues

News content pertaining to the coronavirus is the most important work that trusted news publishers can create, but it isn’t the only thing they’re working on. The pandemic has also changed our lives in other ways, and there’s plenty to talk about.

The following are just a few topics that news publishers have diversified their content in the last few weeks.

By existing in parallel to the pandemic, these topics can reach interested readers while avoiding the stigma that has scared advertisers away. By carefully avoiding keywords that trigger brand safety concerns, these stories can help publisher revenue get back on track.

Improving non-traditional revenue streams

With readers flocking to news stories related to the coronavirus as revenue on those pages declines or disappears, alternative solutions are needed. For some, that means getting users to view their content in their email inbox. According to PowerInbox, their publisher clients saw increased newsletter revenue as the pandemic began to dominate the national consciousness.

The benefits here are two-fold. With readership at all-time levels, loyal readers are more likely to subscribe to these newsletters. They are also more likely to open and engage with the email to see the full breadth of content your site has to offer. This includes coronavirus content as well as content that isn’t facing keyword blocking issues. Some sites have also quickly capitalized on this change in behavior by launching COVID-19 newsletters that cater specifically to interested audiences.

With uncertainty surrounding the virus promising to continue throughout 2020 and beyond, publishers should also look at specific ways to fit within the content blocking ecosystem. For example, DoubleVerify has technology that allows publishers to receive a passback when an advertiser’s filter is triggered. This allows the publisher to gain something from the placement after a block has occurred.

Some publishers are already utilizing this by setting up their own default ad views or routing to PSA placements. That way, the issue of content blocking appears less obvious to users, and publishers retain a certain value threshold. With this practice of content blocking only promising to continue, this practice, and other forms of publisher innovation, should continue long after the pandemic subsides.