Content Marketing Changes In The Coronavirus Economy

content marketing changes coronavirus economy impact bloggers effect publishers covid-19 pandemic recession

Anyone reading industry news lately knows that a lot of publishers are struggling to monetize right now. The old rules just don’t seem to apply anymore. That being said, publishers and content creators with diversified monetization strategies are doing much better on average. Across the industry, we’re seeing more and more publishers experimenting with new campaign types and revenue streams, and there are few signs that this trend will slow down anytime soon. 

The State Of Publishing In A Coronavirus Economy

In recent "State Of Publishing" surveys, we’re seeing that a whopping 70% of respondents are experimenting with new sources of revenue. One area that’s having a “moment” is lead generation campaigns. I’ve written before about the strength of newsletter campaigns. Right now, we’re seeing some fascinating and successful applications for lead generation campaigns. Let’s dive in. An Innovative Ad Format First, a bit of background. Among Facebook’s many ad formats is the Facebook Lead Ad, which allows an advertiser to capture a lead within a user’s news feed. 

A couple of years ago, we developed an innovative ad format that makes the user experience of a Lead Ad much better. The user gets a tease of article content and is prompted to sign up for access to the rest of the article. Once they sign up, they get directed to the article. We call this product “Content-to-Capture, ” and this is what it looks like in the feed: We see conversion rates on this ad format are on average 30% higher than a regular Lead Ad. 


Most of our customers use Content-to-Capture (C2C) as a way to drive newsletter subscription sign-ups. In general, the majority of publishers currently running these programs are news publishers who care about ongoing content engagement and traffic numbers. With that being said, we’ve seen some unique new approaches and strategies around this. I want to highlight a couple of those approaches. Lead Ads for Ad Revenue There are plenty of publishers who run campaigns that optimize for ad revenue. The primary goal of these campaigns is to get the lowest CPC (cost per click) possible and maximize post-click engagement. 

Here’s where things get interesting. Generally speaking, CPCs vary between ad formats. There are, of course, a large number of factors that determine the CPC of a particular ad, from spend caps, to post text, to targeting, and so on. The interesting factor here is that we’re seeing CPCs for Content-to-Capture campaigns at record lows at the moment. Here, for example, are the CPCs of a publisher that recently launched a C2C campaign and how they compare to their ongoing traffic CPCs: As you can see, the CPCs are dramatically lower on the C2C campaign. In this case literally 1/4 of the cost. Of course, not everyone converts once they click the ad, but we’re seeing cases where the cost per lead is only marginally higher than the CPCs for regular traffic campaigns

Another caveat here is that results can depend on the type of content that is being promoted. So while we can’t guarantee a parity between the numbers, overall, we’re looking at record lows for email acquisition. These prices have given publishers optimizing for revenue a whole new strategy to explore. While they can still monetize the first click immediately when the user reaches the article, they now truly own that audience and can reach them via email, bring them back to the site, and monetize further. It’s a win-win-win. 

Lead Generation For Brand And Affiliate Campaigns 

Not all email capture campaigns need to lead to a newsletter sign-up. Yes, that’s the most common use case for publishers, but it’s certainly not the only one. As publishers look to diversify, they’re taking branded content and affiliate content to a whole new level by actively generating leads. 

On the branded content side, for example, a publisher can create a compelling article about Car Company X, capture the email of users that are interested, and then pass those on so the car company can reach out and schedule test drives. On the affiliate side, there’s also a lot of potential. Insurance companies, mortgage lenders, B2B Software as a Service companies, and so on are constantly on the hunt for new lead generation opportunities, and often enter into affiliate deals where they commit to buying X number of leads for a certain price. Publishers are cutting these deals more and more often, showcasing informative how-to articles (for example, "5 Tips to Save Money on Your Car Insurance") and using that engagement and interest to generate a lead and then sell it to a relevant company. 

Of course, that’s not all. Here are a few other interesting uses we’re seeing for lead capture by content publishers

- Petition signatures 
- Donation solicitation 
- Mid-funnel outreach to drive paid subscription sign-ups 

It's Time To Own Your Audience 

Things are certainly crazy right now for content creators, publishers, and online advertisers. If there’s one thing that can help publishers and content marketers weather this storm, it’s to take steps now to own their audiences and diversify their revenue mixes. When you’ve got a user’s email address, you can engage with them in any way you see fit without relying on paid platforms to do so. Whether you want them to see a banner ad, buy a pair of shoes, or simply engage with your content, email continues to be the most effective way to communicate with your loyal users. So if you’re not doing email acquisition yet, now’s the perfect time to try. 

This week, I’ve been reading about how publishers are finding creative ways to drive dollars through virtual events. Group Nine recently teamed up with sponsor Swanson to host a live bingo-meets-cooking-class called Dinner Party Bingo Bash on PopSugar’s Facebook Live page. The Atlantic, on the other hand, hopes that moving its flagship festival online will boost attendance exponentially. Rather than bringing 3,000 readers together in a single location, the publisher now aims to amass a whopping 1 million virtual attendees over the course over four days in September. Atlas Obscura’s event partnership with Airbnb has moved online, too. In lieu of outdoor adventures, the travel publisher is now producing virtual events that include a mind control course taught by a mentalist and mind reader. 

According to Warren Webster, CEO of Atlas Obscura, the margins for custom online events are higher than their in-person counterparts. However, sponsorship revenue is down to about half of what it would be if they took place face-to-face instead. Other publishers are looking at virtual event programming as a way to add value to their paid subscription products. LGBT+ publisher PinkNews recently launched its membership offering, MyPinkNews, which gives subscribers access to video meetings with its editorial team and other high-profile people in the LGBT+ community. And along with many other perks, Cosmopolitan promises early access to insider events to those who sign up for the “unlock it *all*” tier of its new membership product, Cosmo Unlocked.

Coronavirus Content Conclusion

How has the new normal impacted your content marketing or online advertising strategy? If you’re considering new revenue streams or want to test email acquisition, contact us today. Together we'll improve the state of content marketing in a shaky economy.

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