After the publishing industry crawled through a grueling half decade or so, this year it came face to face with COVID-19. While marketers put ad campaigns on hold, publishers saw tremendous gains in traffic. Lots of eyeballs but how to monetize them became the challenge.
MediaPost is kicking off its first virtual Publishing Insider Summit with one of the biggest publishers, Meredith National Media Group, whose president and chief digital officer will sit for a Q&A. Catherine Levene will talk about suffering a drop in advertising but finding ways in which a diversification strategy worked. While the publisher has seen demand and CPMs decline, there have been some interesting pops, including licensing and e-commerce.
Steve Smith, editorial director of events, says there are a lot of publications that have affiliate, e-commerce relationships with major vendors and are growing their businesses along those lines. "At the same time, interestingly, print has become a comfort media," he said. Meredith and others are seeing a robust interest in the printed magazine, and publishers are selling subscriptions online. "We're offering a peek into a highly diversified and massive publisher and the ways they are finding glimmers of hope in all this, and areas of real growth."
Smith is most enthused about the number of people from the C-suite who are speaking at the June 11 - 12 summit. "They're coming from major brands across a lot of media. We have gathered a bumper crop of senior strategists to learn how they've been finding revenue."
Also on Day One will be a panel including reps from Condé Nast and Forbes. They will take up the strategic ways business models have been rearranged and resources reallocated.
Ending the day with round table discussions is a hallmark of MediaPost summits that will be repeated with a refreshing new angle. Day One will start with a Q&A with the CMO of Variety on how the publisher, with its access to celebrities and directors, is successfully using video streaming and moving a major event online. Afterward, the discussion will be open at all attendees to share insights and ask questions of the featured speaker, bringing the spirit of the round tables into virtual space.
Day Two will cover product development as publishers feverishly create and innovate around new products. Some are natural extensions of the crisis with workers at home and event space virtualized. Some new publications are focusing on the pandemic itself.
Kerin O'Connor, CEO of Dennis Publishing, will take part in the keynote Q&A from London. He will share insights into how the company successfully launched The Week Junior, an extension of its The Week magazine, in the United States in the heart of the pandemic in late March. "They had planned a massive distribution in U.S. schools, half a million," said Smith. "They're still sitting in warehouses. It's a fascinating story of thoroughly unexpected success."
Next up, the CRO of The Slate Group, which is perhaps the oldest publisher of podcasts in the business, will discuss how they have accommodated and adjusted to the new reality of podcasting. "It's been a really interesting ride," Smith said. "It had been on the rise. Then March hit and we saw a decline, some substantially. But it has started to grow back even though commuting time has diminished."
We'll wind up the summit with a panel discussion on ad inventory and revenue with reps from News Corp and Insider talking about how publishers have adjusted to a frustrating phenomenon: spikes in traffic, decline in CPMs, and keyword blocking. Advertisers are staying away from controversial content, blocking ads from news stories of any kind. "One of most critical and expensive parts of any news organization will be under-financed by advertising," Smith said.