Real Time Banter: Best Practices for Local News Publishers During COVID-19

In the third Real Time Banter webinar, LiveIntent SVP of global marketing, Kerel Cooper, and VP of marketing, Nick Dujnic, join Fran Wills, CEO of Local Media Consortium (LMC), which represents local media companies across the US and Canada.

Key insights

COVID-19 is driving traffic to news sites, including local publishers, but their ad revenue streams have been disrupted. According to a recent IAB study, 70% of buyers are making are adjusting their ad spend and 69% of sellers are adjusting forecasts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wills has also seen a 30–50% decline in ad revenue across the LMC network of local media companies.

“I don’t think any of us were ready for this,” Wills says. “There’s been such a change in the business model for local publishers. We used to have a large share of advertising, and over the last five or so years, that has shifted. More ad dollars are now going to social and search.”

Direct-sold inventory is decreasing because small and local businesses are not able to operate and advertise. Many publishers are also wary of advertising next to COVID-19 content. As a result, inventory is being filled with programmatic, lower CPM campaigns.

“Advertisers are concerned about showing up on fraudulent ad sites or with un-credible content,” Wills says. “Somehow the local news industry ended up in that same bucket. We’re advocating that our content is credible and something consumers want to access, particularly now.”

LMC has partnered with the Brand Safety Institute to work with advertisers to develop whitelists.

“The whitelist is creating awareness around the value of local media companies. They need support for the important work they’re doing every day.”

Over 30 large agencies, advertisers, and trade associations have reached out to access the list. Regional agencies, banks, and health care providers have also made contact.

“Credible, human audiences access our content every day,” Wills says. “So there’s an opportunity for brands – particularly in cause marketing – to see that there’s no better place to show up than local news.”

Wills has also seen an increase in subscribers to local news sites. LiveIntent additionally reports a 31% increase in impressions and 24% increase in revenue among local news publishers on our platform.

“If there’s a bright spot in this incredibly significant time, there is more awareness among consumers about the work that local publishers do and that it costs money to create this content. It’s not offsetting ad revenue declines, but at least we’re getting subscriptions and email captures we can then monetize through newsletters and other ways.”

In the long-term, investing in email acquisition will help local publishers build loyal reader relationships and father feedback about the communities’ needs and interests.

“For local news publications, there’s no such thing as sending too many emails right now. The more direct relationships we can have with consumers, the better. Especially with third-party cookies going away in a couple of years, first-party data will be more important as time goes on.”

Best practices for local news publishers during COVID-19

  • Ask for support from your community because they’re seeing the importance of local, credible media.
  • Invest in your best monetization channels like email newsletters and branded content.
  • Work with brands and agencies to whitelist your media outlet.

Best practices for monetizing email newsletters

  • Enable all ad sizes for every ad slot to increase access for brands and drive up CPM.
  • Increase above-the-fold ad slots.
  • Use a single-column template to support more ad sizes and formats.
  • Bolster your email capture strategy through paid media campaigns.