COVID times: 7 proven strategies for online media and publishing marketers

Chris Baldwin

Apr 2, 2020

COVID times: 7 proven strategies for online media and publishing marketers Featured Image
Chris Baldwin

Apr 2, 2020

The effects of COVID-19 on the economy have started to surface and changes in our lifestyle have become the new normal. It’s fascinating to see how quickly the society and businesses have adapted to these circumstances. For example, cosmetics companies like L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have started manufacturing hand sanitizers and car manufacturers like Ford joined the race to produce ventilators. Having said that several businesses both online and offline are looking at reinventing their business models to either cope with the short term effects of the pandemic or recoup lost revenue by focusing on long term plans. On the other hand leaders are adjusting to managing their teams remotely and brands are supporting their customers through COVID-sensitive experiences.

Table of Contents
  1. Challenges for Online Media & Publishing Industry

  2. Surge In Online Traffic: Designing Relevant Reader Experiences and Building Trust

  3. 7 Proven Strategies for Online Media & Publishing Marketers

  4. Engage Your Existing Audience With COVID-Sensitive Experiences

  5. Before You Go

Challenges for Online Media & Publishing Industry

Already forecasts have started readjusting with a clear declining trend globally as companies are trying to optimize on costs. In China, digital ad spend forecasted YoY growth decreased from 15.2% to 13%. It will not be surprising to see similar trends in other parts of the world as China was first to face the crisis. This decline in ad spend came especially from the travel and hospitality industry globally. MediaRadar estimated that travel advertisers had cut their ad spend by about 50% during the first two weeks of March 2020 compared to the same period a year ago. 

The volume of content being published across online media channels spiked significantly in the past few weeks. Unfortunately some of the content has been fake or not so reliable, creating panic in the society. Based on Insider’s Global COVID-19 Benchmarks Report, the Media and Publishing industry has seen sessions take off, as people across the globe are tuning in and reading to be informed during these changing times. Compared to 2018 and 2019, the industry experienced the highest jump in session increases between February and March in 2020.

To penetrate through this surge of noise requires a comprehensive strategy to truly engage with your subscriber base with relevant content.  

Surge In Online Traffic: Designing Relevant Reader Experiences and Building Trust

The average time spent on-screen increased drastically, in line with the boost observed in online video views, gaming and news consumption. Based on Insider’s Global COVID-19 Benchmarks Report, compared to 2018 and 2019, the industry experienced the highest jump in session increases between February and March in 2020.


In the times of crisis, empathising with readers and guiding them to reach the news they are looking for is vital to establish loyalty and trust. It is important to focus on delivering relevant and individualized experiences. For example, by sending timely push messages including current updates, revealing relevant content recommendations and engaging readers with helpful overlays( a carousel with different subscription packages)—asking readers to subscribe.

Even though the Media & Publishing industry—News, Lifestyle Magazines, Entertainment sites—seem to be relatively less affected from the crisis compared to other industries, the surge in online content also creates fierce competition. So, Media & Publishing brands need to act proactively to implement short, medium and long term strategies to navigate the crisis.  

7 Proven Strategies for Online Media & Publishing Marketers 

As a marketer in Media & Publishing, you should be focusing on three main goals in short to medium term:

  • Engage your readers with COVID-sensitive experiences
  • Speed up content discovery and consumption
  • Optimize your customer acquisition costs (CAC)

Let’s dive deeper into each of these goals and explore practical use cases.

Engage Your Existing Audience With COVID-Sensitive Experiences 

1. Design Personalized and Mindful Notifications to Bring Your Users Back

Web Push and Mobile App push notifications are a great way to re-engage your existing audience base. Web Push or Browse push notifications are very simple: no email, no phone, no personal information required. Once the user opts-in, messages can be sent right through the browser, even when the user is not on your website. Send breaking news, interesting articles or new content based on the interest of users to bring them back to your website. To make web push more effective you can use advanced features like time optimization and frequency capping to ensure you deliver the right messages, at the right time in a mindful way. 

Mobile App Push notifications provide you more flexibility in tailoring messages based on location, subscribers, past interests and more to send targeted messages. You can make your messages more relatable by using the grouping feature on iOS (or thread on Android) to ensure that your COVID related updates are distinguished from your general breaking news and other stories to ensure improved engagement. 

2. Turn Your Vivid Readers Into Loyal Subscribers

Identifying your most engaged users and nudging them to subscribe to a paid package with exclusive features is the best way to boost engagement. An example from the Washington post below shows an overlay that nudges readers to become a subscriber. You could further make it more targeted by leveraging Insider’s predictive segments backed by AI, and focus only on your Likelihood to Subscribe – High segment.

3. Focus on Customer Feedback and Continuously Optimize Reading Experiences

Use NPS style surveys to get feedback from readers while they are about to exit your site or mobile app or when they scroll through articles rapidly— an indicator of skim reading. Take it one step ahead by asking them more on how you can improve their reading experience or specific feedback on your content.

Speed Up Content Discovery & Consumption

4. Recommend the Articles They Will Like

Deliver personalized content recommendations on your website or app to facilitate the reading experience and keep users engaged: 

  • Viewers of this article were also interested in these”
  • You might find these interesting “
  • Most trending articles 

Recommendations can help you boost the average time spent on your site, increase the number of articles read per session and ultimately boost loyalty amongst your readers.

5. Use the Power of Stories to Showcase Relevant Content and Speed Up Discovery

Storytelling is a key component of all news and entertainment websites, so why not use a story based UX to promote and showcase your content. Insider’s InStory is a great way to build Instagram and Netflix like stories on your own desktop and mobile websites. Categorize these stories based on content that users are highly likely to consume during this time.

Optimize Your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)

6. Re-target Readers Who Are More Likely to Subscribe in Ad Channels 

You have the traffic coming in. That is a relief. Yet, in order to increase the number of subscribers you need to allocate your valuable ad budget towards those who are more likely to buy one of your exclusive packages. Using solutions like Insider’s Predictive Ad Audiences you can retarget predictive segments (audiences) powered by AI in advertising channels like Facebook and Google. Targeting Likelihood to Subscribe – High and Lifetime Value – High users, you can optimize your  Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and significantly improve your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). 

Don’t Forget…

7. Encourage Mobile Visitors to Download Your Mobile App

Getting your mobile visitors to download your app provides a higher level of lock in and loyalty. A proven way to drive mobile app downloads is to encourage readers coming to your mobile site to download your app for a more optimized experience. As soon as readers land to your mobile site, you can welcome them with smart app download banners to turn more traffic into downloads.

Before You Go…

Consumption of online media has surged during this pandemic and businesses are doing everything possible to keep that trend going. As a part of the media, publishing and entertainment industries you are also at the frontline. You have a huge responsibility to curb the spread of the virus and keep people informed about the latest developments, trends, regulations and how to stay safe. 

It is time to empathize with your readers and create mindful and COVID-sensitive experiences that resonate with them. This way you will navigate the crisis and build long term trust and loyalty with readers. Stay relevant, stay safe.

To learn more about how Insider can help your business during the crisis with continuity and growth reach out to us and we’ll schedule a personalized demo with one of our digital growth experts.

Chris is an award-winning marketing leader with more than 12 years experience in the marketing and customer experience space. As VP of Marketing, Brand and Communications, Chris is responsible for Insider's brand strategy, and overseeing the global marketing team. Fun fact: Chris recently attended a clay-making workshop to make his own coffee cup…let's just say that he shouldn't give up the day job just yet.