COVID-19 and the (Financial) Impact on Media

Last updated: 14 May 2020

The large majority of media around the world feel the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis; some see their revenue decrease, others are struggling to keep up with the many information requests by the public, and yet others are impeded to conduct their work (safely). The Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) has published advise for their partners and other interested media around the world, on how to minimize the impact of the covid-19 crisis on a media business. This advise can be broken down into 3 main topics:

1. Finding ways to cut costs and generate (new) revenue
2. Keep a focus on the audience and the content the need
3. Take measures to ensure safe working conditions for your staff

Here, we bundle the resources published around the first 2 of these topics. The resources about safe and responsible reporting during this crisis can be found here.

In this post you can find resources on…

… media after COVID-19 (the future of media & innovation)
… the impact of COVID-19 on media
managing your business financially & finding (new) revenue
… serving and reaching (new) audiences

THE FUTURE OF MEDIA & INNOVATION (after COVID-19)

Some philosophical and predictive articles on how the (in some contexts near, in other not so near) future of the media landscape might look like.

What will a post-COVID-19 media look like? I asked my students. (Monday Note, written by Frederic Filloux)

What could the New Zealand media look like if it were reinvented?  (Hamish McKenzie of Substack)

Coronavirus May Spell the End for Many of Africa’s Print Newspapers (GIJN)

RESOURCES: THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON MEDIA (general)

Covid-19 could trigger ‘media extinction event’ in developing countries (The Guardian)
Lead paragraph: “Critical reporting under threat as revenue losses leave independent news outlets hostage to government subsidies or whims of billionaires”

The Splice Lights On survey shows that over 40% of media orgs expect to start cutting jobs in the next 12 months (Splice)
Splice conducted a survey among mainly small sized media on the financial impact of COVID-19, and report on the first results.

Video of the online event: How to Minimize the Impact of the Covid-crisis on Your Media Business (Splice)
During this event (on 8 April 2020) MDIF presented their published blog article with advise. The attendants (over 90 participants in total, representing media and media support organisations) had the opportunity to ask questions and present their own experience(s).

Coronavirus climbs up keyword block lists, squeezing news publishers’ programmatic revenues (Digiday)

‘A Seismic Shock’: Jittery Companies Pull Back on Ads During Pandemic (New York Times)

The coronavirus forces furloughs, layoffs and print reductions at newspapers across North America (Poynter)
Although this article discusses the impact of the crisis on (mainly) print media in North America, we see the same happening around the world (in for example Bangladesh, Honduras, Somaliland and Australia).

The coronavirus crisis is devastating the news industry. Many newspapers won’t survive it. (The Washington Post)

Media deal with Facebook and Google more urgent with coronavirus taking jobs, says regulator (The Guardian)
This article discusses the possibilities of striking a more fair and transparent deal between the big platforms (Google and Facebook) and news media. The goal would be to ensure an increase in revenue for news media, which is even more needed during this crisis. For the deal to be established, governments and civil society have a role to play – exerting pressure on the platforms.

MANAGING YOUR BUSINESS FINANCIALLY & FINDING (NEW) REVENUE

In this section you can find resources that discuss…

general advise on maintaining your media business financially
… pushing your reader revenue
… generating revenue with online, instead of offline, events

(some articles are mentioned in different sections, since they discuss multiple topics)

General Advise on Managing Your Media Business Financially

Webinar: Grants and Funds (Splice – Low Res)
“About emergency funding for covid-affected newsrooms. What money is out there? And how do you ask for it? This is meant for newsrooms and journalists looking for financial support this year.”

Webinar: Strategies for Financial Survival (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
This webinar of April 16 discusses a survey conducted by Splice on the financial impact of COVID-19 on media around the world (presented by Alan Soon), how to build and cultivate donor relationships (presented by Bridget Gallagher), and managing media businesses in times of crises (presented by Ross Settles). Participants of the webinar had the opportunity to ask questions to the 3 presenters.
After the webinar, this article called Managing in the Virus Year: Planning Considerations for Small, Independent Media by Ross Settles was published on the GIJN website. It summarises the main points of the webinar, and in particular discusses the advises for cash flow management in media businesses in times of crisis.

Best Practices for Founders in the wake of COVID-19 (Notion)
This resource includes tools that can help your medium plan for the months ahead, through for example scenario planning, a business continuity plan and redesigning business processes.

Media Sustainability During the COVID-19 Crisis (ICFJ in English)
Original article: Sostenibilidad (o viabilidad) de los medios durante la pandemia (SembraMedia in Spanish)
This article offers four approaches to improve media sustainability in this crisis, each with examples from Latin/Central America.

An emergency plan to guarantee the survival of eldiario.es / Un plan de emergencia para garantizar la supervivencia de eldiario.es (El Diario.es in Spanish)
Here, the Spanish outlet El Diario outlines its strategy to survive this crisis.

Under stress but seeing their work resonate, local news orgs are experimenting through the pandemic (NiemanLab)
This article summarizes lessons learned from a Webinar organised on April 3rd, called “Managing your local news business in de face of a pandemic” (LION – find the full webinar and accompanying resources here). The lessons include advise on reaching out to audiences for support, increasing (free) subscriptions, placing calls to action under articles and how to keep advertisers.

Wan-Ifra developed the website CoronaNewsroom, with also a section with stories around revenue challenges that media tackle during this crisis. Some of the articles featured here are also found on this site, but Wan-Ifra found many more.

JamLab South Africa has published two blog posts that are always relevant to media businesses, but even more so right now. The almost philosophical post Future-proof. There’s always a lesson in preparation reflects on how this time has allowed media businesses to take a step back and contemplate what we consider ‘business as usual’. In Startups navigating the digital divide the authors describe how this crisis offers an “opportunity to slow down, reflect and arm ourselves with research in order to resume our activities with a clearer and more refined objective.”

Reader Revenue

‘Get while the getting’s good’: Publishers look to cheap Facebook ads to increase subscriptions (Digiday)
This post describes using the opportunity for getting new subscribers through paid ads, since the costs of these ads are particularly low at the moment.

How nonprofit news sites can build loyalty and sustainability in the current crisis (Medium)
An article with concrete tips on how to make use of increased online traffic to grow your medium; in terms of audience and in terms of revenue.

How Coronavirus Is Changing the Way Publishers Ask for Reader Support (Facebook Journalism Project)
This article mentions strategies and examples of the use of these successful strategies to boost reader revenue during this crisis. These strategies include asking consistently and emphatically for support, and using email newsletters. The Facebook Journalism Project staff provide an email-address in the article, that can be used if media would like to be put in touch with media that have already successfully employed some of the mentioned strategies.

Here’s how 15+ member-driven organizations are adapting membership appeals, events, and more for coronavirus (the Membership Puzzle Project)
In this blog there are many interesting examples from around the world, about how media are dealing with the decline in income – as well as on how to engage your (new) audiences.

For its must-read coronavirus coverage, The Atlantic is rewarded with a huge surge of digital subscriptions (NiemanLab)
This is a case study of The Atlantic, a newpaper (digital and print) in the US. Their partly free (corona-virus) coverage has led to a huge increase in the number of subscribers.

How you can support Vox (Vox)
Read here the call to readers of Vox to support them.

Put the paywalls back up on coronavirus coverage (Poynter)

Online Events

How Outride.rs created an online festival and attracted 40k viewers! (Outriders)
This is a case study developed by Outriders itself. Outriders is a Polish medium with a membership model. In this case study the medium explains how they confronted two challenges: “1. How to serve the audience now; 2. How (and if) to redefine the membership value proposal.”

How The Financial Times is adapting its events business (Digiday)
A case study of the Financial Times moving its events business online. The Times is planning to generate revenue with online events through sponsorship, selling tickets for online business to business events, and by selling additional features.

Here’s how 15+ member-driven organizations are adapting membership appeals, events, and more for coronavirus (the Membership Puzzle Project)
In this blog there are many interesting examples from around the world, about how media are dealing with the decline in income – as well as on how to engage your (new) audiences.

How MIT Technology Review shifted its largest event to streaming (Digiday)
A case study of MIT generating revenue with an online event through sponsorship and digital products. The article includes some advise on how to manage events and your media business in these times.

SERVING AND REACHING YOUR (NEW) AUDIENCES

7 ways to get your COVID-19 reporting to those who need it (American Press Institute)

The coronavirus traffic bump to news sites is pretty much over already (NiemanLab)
In the US the heightened traffic on independent news sites due to the corona crisis (and the news about the topic) has already started to decrease. However, in countries where corona has not yet hit as hard, the increase of traffic might be yet to come. Knowing about the past traffic trends in the US – even if this will not be exactly the same in other countries – can help media around the world to plan ahead for audience retention during and after the increase of online traffic.
FOR CONCRETE TIPS on how to plan ahead for audience retention (and how to monetize this) read this article (for digital media): How nonprofit news sites can build loyalty and sustainability in the current crisis (Medium).

Covid-19: How to keep your audience informed (Deutsche Welle)
A collection of resources, ranging from how to obtain correct data and information, to how to organise your newsroom and getting information out to marginalized communities.

How are newsrooms keeping readers informed on COVID-19? Here are some examples from around the globe (IJNet)
Some more and less innovative, but all online, ways to bring the news on COVID-19.

How Outride.rs created an online festival and attracted 40k viewers! (Outriders)
This is a case study developed by Outriders itself. Outriders is a Polish medium with a membership model. In this case study the medium explains how they confronted two challenges: “1. How to serve the audience now; 2. How (and if) to redefine the membership value proposal.”

Are you seeing COVID-19 trends in Google Analytics? (Loves Data)
A practical guide on how to read the Google Analytics of your medium – informing you about what your audience wants to see/read.

The Virus Changed the Way We Internet (New York Times)
This article discusses how Americans started to use the internet differently – for different purposes, and through different means – because of the COVID-19 crisis. While the data about internet use of Americans is only to a certain extent relevant in other contexts, the article does indicate that it is important to analyse your medium’s (social media) metrics. Changes in these metrics (see also the article above ‘Are you seeing COVID-19 trends in Google Analytics’) provide important information on how a medium can best serve the (changing) needs of the audience.