Under coronavirus quarantines and lockdowns, people are consuming more media than ever, from streaming video to online news to ebooks. But that’s not good news for most news sites, thanks to a heavy reliance on advertising.
Ads are leaking away faster than pageviews are growing, for two big reasons: First, advertisers hate bad news, so they’ll avoid anything pandemic-related, and second, many of the businesses are themselves struggling, and their advertising budgets are the first thing on the chopping block.
For some media publishers, the best solution is to ask their readership to subscribe directly. “The digital paid content debate is over—if people want it, they’ll purchase,” says Joe Hyrkin, CEO at digital discovery and publishing platform Issuu. “We first saw the shift with music, where consumers essentially agreed to pay for content through platforms like Apple and Spotify. In terms of movies and shows, most major media companies have launched their own programming and platforms (e.g., Disney+) over the last six months, while cord-cutting has reached an all-time high.”
But subscriptions aren’t for everyone: Brands need a lot of name recognition to reach the scale needed to operate as a subscription-powered business. In news media, that’s the New York Times, which added half a million new subscribers in just the last quarter. But every new subscriber they add is, potentially, a subscription lost to another competing publisher.
Some services sell directly to the consumer, like the audiobook industry, which has the added benefit of an all-digital product. “Unlike traditional publishers who have been delaying new book releases because their model is still heavily reliant on physical retail, independent publishing is 100% ecomm and as a result it’s in an accelerated growth state,” Scott Dickey, CEO at Podium Audio, tells me. “Interestingly, sci-fi and fantasy genres are trending particularly well as it appears consumers are consuming more escapist content than pre-COVID periods.”
But none of that helps news organizations and magazines, which face tanking ad revenue and few paths towards a subscription model. Is any media model functional amid the 2020 pandemic?
The brand-supported model is one answer: A company operates its own magazine on the side, using it as a loss leader to engage its audience.
MEL Magazine, an online publication backed by Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club, offers an example of what this looks like in practice. It makes sense that this model would thrive as pageviews soar even while advertisers bail, since it never relied on advertisers to start with.
I ran a few questions past MEL Magazine’s cofounder and editor-in-chief Josh Schollmeyer to learn more about how MEL is doing these days.
Have you seen changes in your readership or in how people are consuming media?
There are definitely a lot more eyeballs out there. We just completed our best traffic month ever, and posted two of our best days ever in April as well. Overall, our traffic is up about 30 percent since sheltering-in-place began more or less nationwide.
It seems — depending on the time of the day — people are looking for two types of content: 1) Something highly relatable about the pandemic (for example, how do I wear a face mask without fogging up my glasses?) or almost voyeuristic about the ways in which other people are spending lockdown (for example, the people throwing raves for one to pass the time); or 2) something as far from the epidemic as humanly possible (for example, a longer read on the forgotten Tiger King of Harlem, or anything that’s off-topic but also kinda fun and lighthearted).
The morning is when interest in health/corona coverage seems highest; then by early afternoon, everyone is sorta burned out on it and wants something different; and as the day draws to a close, it’s all about what we call “sin and sloth,” a mix of entertainment/binge-watching suggestions, sex and drugs/booze posts.
How has the current situation changed how you cover culture?
Not that much really. For starters, we’ve covered COVID and quarantine like we would anything else — by channeling our own fears, anxieties and intellectual curiosities. So most everything is drawn from our own lives and from our own questions about what we’re living through. Frankly, it’s helped quell a lot of our worry, because sorting through our own neuroses has given us a measure of control we wouldn’t otherwise have. (It’s also validating to see with the traffic being what it is, how many people are thinking about the same things, making us feel less alone, too). I’ve always joked that the site is me working through some sh*t, and I don’t know if it’s ever been more true than now.
We’ve also tried to keep our coverage aligned with our core topic areas — dating, mental and physical health, digital and pop culture, money and work, etc. We have sharpened our focus a bit more on the class issues that this crisis has put front and center, especially with regard to “essential” workers at big box chains and who’s really getting bailed out by the government. But that’s also always been a big part of the brand ethos, as well as a major pillar of our much larger look at modern masculinity since so much of what’s affecting men today is economic (particularly as it pertains to the blue-collar guy).
If anything, we’ve taken a newsier approach than normal — if only in the volume and type of posts we’re now doing — but we’re probably still more focused on the zeitgeist and bigger picture than we are necessarily chasing the newscycle.
With so many media businesses struggling during this time, how is MEL thinking about its long-term business and goals?
Step by step. We’ve had a lot of interesting opportunities for monetization as we really have been paving the roadmap for brand-incubated journalism for a few years now, and a number of brands have approached us about how they might do something similar. We’ve developed a reputation as an innovator that’s definitely made a significant impact on men’s lifestyle content, and that’s generated the kind of IP that’s attracted interest from studios and networks here in L.A.
Of course, right now, I’m thankful that we have the kind of funding model that lets us focus on continuing to pile up traffic wins — and build a completely organic, highly compelling audience — as well as high-quality work that keeps letting us stand out. That should also help us weather this storm, because eventually, some degree of normalcy will return, or something different altogether will arise, and we want to be at the front of the line and firing on all cylinders when that happens.
How has being a brand-backed media business impacted your business during this time?
That’s honestly been the beauty of our model. It’s insulated us from the pressures that many other traditional media companies are experiencing — not just now, but over the last few years — and given us the room and time to really think innovatively about what our model could be in the future and how it can be sustainable enough to even get through a global pandemic.
Saskatoon police officer put on paid leave over 'harmful and offensive' social media posts – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
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“I want to assure the public that we take these complaints seriously. We have acted swiftly to address the issue and a thorough investigation will occur.”
The Saskatoon Police Association, the union that represents police officers in the city, said it will not be commenting at this time since the investigation is active.
The board of directors of Saskatoon Pride, in a Facebook post, said Cooper personally contacted the organization to inform it about the posts.
The organization said the posts are not just hurtful to the city’s 2SLGBTQ+ community, but to the entire community, and “are not worthy of someone charged with upholding the law and protecting the community.”
“It is a sad day for Saskatoon that, in the midst of outrage over the racist and criminal acts committed by police against the BIPOC community across the continent and during a month meant to celebrate diversity, inclusion and Pride, there is a member of the Saskatoon police force who would feel that they were entitled to express such bigoted views, while claiming to uphold the law and serve the public,” Saskatoon Pride’s board wrote.
Social media helps solve mystery of lost camera found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek – Globalnews.ca
Brianna Irawan, 13, was extremely happy after finding out on Thursday that her prized underwater camera that had been lost for almost a year had been found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek.
The Williams Lake teen was visiting relatives in Kelowna last year when she lost the camera while jumping into the waterfalls at Mill Creek Regional Park.
“We were on Mill Creek, jumping into the water and I put my camera underneath my clothes,” Irawan told Global News on Friday.
“When I jumped, I forgot about my camera, so I walked back up and then I picked up my clothes and I forgot my camera was underneath and it fell into the water.”
Social media helps solve mystery of lost camera found in Kelowna’s Mill Creek
She went back the creek several times over the next few days, but eventually had to write her camera off to the river gods.
The Fujifilm XP model wasn’t seen again until almost a year later when Calvin Van Buskirk found it caught up in some debris downstream.
“What makes it even more interesting is we found a GoPro there last year. You guys [Global News] were able to get the images and the videos off it within hours it found its way back to its rightful owner,” Van Buskirk said.
Construction crew makes unusual find near Kelowna
It took less than 24 hours for images retrieved from the camera to make their way around social media and back to their owner.
Kyla Irawan, Brianna’s mother, sent a message to Global News on Thursday afternoon through Facebook to say the photos had come from her daughter.
On Friday, Global News returned the camera — still in working order — to Brianna’s uncle, Travis Whiting, who is also Kelowna’s fire chief.
‘This is the craziest thing,’: Lost GoPro owner reunited with camera
The Irawans shared a message of gratitude with Van Buskirk.
“Thank you, Calvin, we totally appreciate your honesty,” said Kyla Irawan.
“Thank you for putting it on Global so I can give my daughter the opportunity to have all those memories back.”
For her part, Brianna said she can’t wait to see her FujiFilm XP model again.
“Soon as I get it, I’m going to transfer the photos” to a computer, she said.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Former UBC basketball assistant coach criticized for social media activity – The Province
Long-time assistant men’s basketball coach Vern Knopp will no longer work next to head coach Kevin Hanson.
The University of B.C. is distancing itself from former assistant men’s basketball coach Vern Knopp following questions about some of his activity on social media.
A Twitter account called Muted Madness pointed out on Thursday that Knopp had hit the like button on a video posted by conservative comedians the Hodge Twins on June 3 that claims the Black Lives Matter movement is a “leftist lie.”
A number of other Twitter users echoed the criticism of Knopp, who served as head coach Kevin Hanson’s volunteer assistant for the past two decades.
Later on Thursday, he shared a comment on his account, which is set to private: “So I never knew some likes to conservative posts would cause this shit storm? However my LIKES are those of mine and have nothing to do with UBC! I had told Coach Hanson months ago that I wasn’t returning to UBC but I just not (sic) made it public, only to my family.”
Reached via direct message on Friday, Knopp said he’d told Hanson about his decision in May as well as some parents on the team, but declined to make further comment.
Later on Thursday, Kavie Toor, UBC Athletics’ managing director, distanced the university from Knopp.
“Vern Knopp’s personal opinions, beliefs and social media endorsements do not represent the ideals and values of the UBC Thunderbirds. Vern Knopp is no longer a member of the Thunderbrids men’s basketball coaching staff,” he tweeted.
On Friday, the university’s athletics department declined to comment further.
The Alma Mater Society, a UBC students’ union, expressed support for the university’s position.
“The AMS is committed to supporting students from the Black community at this time, and we are actively working to develop programming to help combat anti-Black racism at UBC. The sentiments expressed by Mr. Knopp have absolutely no place at UBC, and society in general,” they said in a statement.
“We are encouraged to see that UBC Athletics and Recreation has taken a zero-tolerance approach to this issue.”
On Tuesday, the department shared a message on Twitter from university president Santa Ono.
“As Thunderbirds we join all of UBC in condemning racism in all forms. We are committed to an inclusive and respectful environment where we listen, learn and continue to grow together,” the department said in a tweet.
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