Publishers Talk Strategy Around Pandemic Crisis

What's a publisher to do when advertisers use keyword blocking or cancel altogether when a crisis hits? Our panel shared strategy on Friday's virtual Publishing Insider Summit.

Nick Johnson, Vice President and Head of Advertising at McClatchy (top right), said the sales team moved to a "full-court press on educating advertisers why a pause made more sense" than a cancellation. 

It created an active roster to quickly activate them when it could. "It's been the foundation of our business for the last six weeks." It "redeployed, leveraging video resources, pushing out sales strategies and tactics so that sales people had something to anchor their day around."

Over at Insider Inc., Melanie Winer, VP of Media Strategy & Client Success (bottom left), developed a list of clients and what they were hearing from them "to give us a bird's-eye view of our business. There was so much uncertainty. We had to get a handle on revenue."

"Sort of an emergency room triage list," said MediaPost's Steve Smith, Editorial Director of Events (top left). Winer agreed, adding that they gave clients an overall picture of their campaigns and pointing out some positive reasons they might want to stay with Insider.

Jason Tate, Director, Programmatic and Partnership Development at MediaNews Group (bottom right), said they just "plugged in the holes," looking at what it could do programmatically with the spike in news traffic. "We opened the flood gates and revenue nearly tripled in programmatic." They also "cleaned the slate, looking at what we have done well, how we can get rid of stuff that is failing. Call a spade a spade."

MediaNews created a partner scorecard, ranking advertisers on a 0 to 6 scale and putting them into one of three tiers, looking at who it could grow and who it could weed out.

As for keyword blocking, Johnson noted the inverse correlation in programmatic between bad news spikes and volume drops. "It's a volatile space," he said. "Positioning yourself where you can isolate advertisers is something we're all thinking about."

After a flurry of client request to block articles with words like quarantine, Winer said she had to educate the sales teams and support staff, leaning into ad verification with is technology partner. "There's good COVID and there's bad COVID," she said. 

Going forward, Tate said, they're getting better about how they're targeting people.

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