According to a survey conducted by the IAB on the impact of Covid-19 on ad revenue, 98% of the respondents are expecting a decline in revenue
By Ankit Oberoi
Covid-19 has caused a noticeable revenue decline in most industries ever since it was declared a pandemic in early 2020. The web publishing industry is no exception, and statistics reflect likewise. According to a survey conducted by the IAB on the impact of Covid-19 on ad revenue, 98% of the respondents are expecting a decline in revenue. Brands cutting advertising budgets, ‘coronavirus’ and ‘Covid-19’ becoming blacklisted keywords, limiting publishers’ ability to monetise related content, and cancellation of events curtailing revenue diversification are some of the ways in which web publishers have been affected.
Publishers are also experiencing an anomaly of sorts. Ideally, high website traffic translates to an increase in ad revenue. However, in these times, when most people are voluntarily socially distancing and spending more time over the internet than ever before, publishers are unable to capitalise on that traffic growth due to low CPMs.
Despite these issues, publishers can mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their advertising revenue. Here are a few ways in which they can safeguard their earnings:
Leverage video advertising
Watching videos has become the primary form of entertainment for people locked inside their homes. For example, popular OTT streaming service Netflix is reducing its video quality to match the unexpected high streaming demand. This makes a compelling case for publishers to get started with video advertising. Some of the initial steps that they can take are trying outstream video ads, by working with a video ad network.
Keyword blacklisting is a serious problem that all publishers must pay attention to. In 2019, US publishers collectively lost $2.8 billion to keyword blacklisting. As mentioned before, ‘coronavirus’ swiftly climbed up the list of blacklisted keywords for its negative connotation.
Publishers should try getting whitelisted and directly approach advertisers to run ads next to Covid-19-based content. In the UK, for example, publishers signed an open letter to ask advertisers to remove their blacklists and help news publishers in monetising essential journalism coverage pertaining to Covid-19.
Though programmatic auctions certainly help publishers in automating the process and reducing errors, this might be the best time for shifting focus to direct deals. Approaching advertisers directly has its own set of advantages, including zero chances of keyword blacklisting, and guaranteed revenue unlike programmatic deals. Publishers can start by attending virtual industry events and approaching advertisers to sell their inventory.
Optimise ad layout
The right ad placement is pivotal to increasing engagement and ad revenue on any website. For instance, the top ad unit might perform well for some publishers, while a bottom sticky might prove beneficial for a different website. In any case, the publisher’s strength lies in knowing which ad placements perform the best. They should continue to optimise their ad layouts to get the maximum yield out of every single impression.
Along with the Covid-19 impact, publishers are also getting used to surviving without third-party cookies. These times, although difficult at first glance, are a blessing in disguise for publishers. Publishers must start improving the quality of their website content. Enhancing the quality of content has many advantages including the opportunity for introducing a subscription model, garnering first-party data, surviving core algorithm updates by Google, and establishing a consistently valuable audience base.
There cannot be a standardised approach to maintaining and increasing revenue as long as publishers continue to reel from the effects of Covid-19. A combination of the above tips can help them get their revenue back on track. Publishers must brace themselves for the slump that could last till the third quarter of this year. But, eventually, the digital advertising ecosystem will return to its normal state of functioning.
The author is CEO and co-founder, AdPushup
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