Whether following an ad-funded or subscription-based model, publishers have experienced a rollercoaster of ups and downs in the past several months. Ad blocking and media buying based on seasonal trends are among the challenges.
“I think we're in this for a two- to three-year haul, depending on who we have in the executive branch come November,” said Claudia Page, senior vice president, product and operations at Vivendi-owned video platform Dailymotion. “That means publishers need to look at diversifying revenue and maintaining subscriptions and audiences, planning on seasonality. I don't think you'll see the same trends as in the past for another couple of years.”
Publishers are accustomed to having direct-sales efforts and programmatic relationships that provide a steady stream of revenue.
"While there has been an uptick in certain categories for publishers that did well, there was a significant decline in CPMs and paused campaigns either direct sold or through programmatic channels,” Page said. “It was about pausing the messaging.”
Page said the boycott has opened the door to smaller advertisers. With the mass exodus of major brands on Facebook, most analysts and those in the advertising industry expected the social media platform to be hit hard. That was not the case.
Facebook is scheduled to report Q2 2020 earnings on July 29. The Zacks Equity Research Consensus for revenue is estimated at $17.31 billion, up 2.5% from the year-ago quarter.
“All the boycott did was open the marketplace so SMBs could spend more heavily,” Page said. “It freed-up inventory. … The same thing you’re seeing on Facebook is occurring on other publisher platforms, too.”
There are numerous small companies buying advertising on Facebook -- ones that would have not done so in the past.
"Here's the truth: their algorithms still drive people to hate groups and hateful content, Facebook makes money by keeping people on the site, and hateful content is exactly the type of stuff that keeps people glued to their screens," Jessica J. González, co-CEO at Free Press, wrote in a post about Facebook and hate speech.
Page says it's time for publishers to take the opportunity to look at new and interesting ways to monetize and retain their readership. She believes the COVID-19 pandemic will continue much longer than most expect, even as some states with better outcomes open up.
“You need to look at more direct-to-consumer models,” Page said. “Look at the New York Times’ Wirecutter, for example, which is reader-supported. Then there are podcasts and newsletters,” which provide new monetization opportunities, even for programmatic platforms, she adds.