2020 will certainly be a year to remember, as the Covid-19 breakout has had major implications in most industries. During the pandemic, a general shift towards the digital world was observed. In the media industry, the Covid-19 breakout has accelerated a number of existing trends, with publishers transitioning to cloud-based solutions and making greater use of AI technologies.
Digital transformation combined with an externally imposed limited physical presence seems to be a one-way street for news organizations. According to WAN-IFRA’s survey on the impact of the pandemic on newsrooms a new working culture is emerging, as out of 104 respondents, close to 30% say the entire staff is working from home; with this 30% expecting to be even higher in the future.
Many news organizations have also reduced their print production. For example, Australian News Corp recently moved to a complete closure of the print editions of many of its regional and community newspapers, while print sales and revenues dropped due to the imposed lockdown measures, reduced advertising, and the continued migration of audiences to digital platforms.
Nevertheless, at the same time, the pandemic gave rise to new products. In fact, many news organizations have launched a range of new capabilities to better inform and engage readers about the pandemic, such as newsletters, infographics, videos, and live blogs.
Furthermore, Covid-19 has increased news consumption online, resulting in boosted website traffic and subscription numbers. With advertising revenue down, in order to fill the gap, publishers leaned into reader revenue and membership programs. As seen in ‘the Publisher’s Guide to Navigating Covid-19’:
- The New York Times now has more than 6.5 million subscribers (both print and digital), adding 669.000 digital subscribers in the second quarter of 2020. In March 2020, the website had 240 million unique visitors and 2.5 billion pageviews, up from 101 million unique visitor in January.
- CNBC’s website hit 1 billion page views for the first time in March 2020, more than doubling traffic from February. Subscriptions to CNBC Pro, a premium product costing $29.99 a month or $299.99 a year, were up 189% since January 2020.
- Tribune Publishing experienced a 293% increase in new digital subscriptions between March and February 2020. This included an increased conversion rate, from users hitting the paywall, of 109%.
Other success stories with the so-called ‘coronavirus bumps’, include the one of:
- The regional Swedish newspaper, Upsala Nya Tidning, which from 2017 follows a paid subscription model, has witnessed a 35% increase in their subscriber page views on a weekly basis, and an 80% increase in conversions.
- The Swedish leading daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, reported 125% growth in web traffic (YoY), 400% growth in video viewing, 115.000 new registrations, and 20.000 new digital subscribers over four weeks.
One thing we can say for sure; the Covid crisis has presented unprecedented challenges but it has also unlocked great opportunities, highlighting the need for greater editorial flexibility.