From The Ashes Of Crises, Publishers Find A Spirit Of Generosity

Clockwise from top right: Joy Robins, Chief Revenue Officer, The Washington Post; Craig Kostelic, Chief Business Officer, U.S. Advertising Revenue and Head of Global Advertising Solutions, Condé Nast; Jessica Sibley, CRO, Forbes, and MediaPost's Lisa Singer. 

Already struggling under digital pressures, media companies faced the COVID-19 epidemic head on and, in some ways outlined by our Publishing Insider Summit panelists on Thursday, actually are coming out on top.

There was a certain excitement expressed for the resulting focus on relationships within the industry, with Craig Kostelic, Chief Business Officer, U.S. Advertising Revenue and Head of Global Advertising Solutions at Condé Nast, speaking about the way his company's Teen Vogue created virtual celebrations of prom and commencement. "They were incredible experiences and are smart business models for us on the commercial side. We are all experiencing the same thing at the same time. This has created voids and gaps in people's lives." Condé Nast is asking how its editorial voices and use its platforms to bring people together for those moments.

Because everyone is in their homes, said Jessica Sibley, CRO at Forbes, the industry is feeling more personal. "We're feeling closer in this global event and movement. It gives us hope and confidence that we can continue to partner together."

Over at The Washington Post, CRO Joy Robins saw "an incredible thing. There was such a sense of purpose from our entire organization especially in the first six weeks. People were saying, 'I will do whatever we need to do to move this forward.'"

When COVID first hit in March, panelists agreed, their companies' first concern was the safety of their employees. When they then turned their attention to their clients, all agreed they took a consultative approach, working on finding out what their readers wanted and needed to hear and taking the findings back to the advertisers to work on messaging.

This led to a certain amount of generosity, said Robins. "The ground had shifted underneath their feet. We were helping them use their voice to reach their customers, our readers. We really lived up to partner status."

Condé Nast focused on unscripted, premium content. "We were spending time talking about our how our creative handles production and how we can help them evolve their messaging to be more culturally relevant.

After the death of George Floyd, publishers experienced a second wave of action, helping their clients in crafting messages that weren't tone deaf, guiding them to take action most relevantly. "Social has always provided a lot of brands with a voice or action in the moment," said Robins. "We were looking to mobilize their social messaging into different forms of creative. We were proactively letting them know, we have new research, here's what we're seeing from the reader standpoint."

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