Coronavirus effects on advertising in 2020

How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect advertising this year?

The coronavirus pandemic has shooken the advertising industry.

To help you stay informed with how events are shaping in 2020, we are gathering the latest major news about the virus and its effects on marketing and advertising into one place.

Make sure to check back as we continue to update this post with the latest stories.

Coronavirus causes page views to surge for news sites

News sites have seen readership and pageviews spike in the last few months on the back of coronavirus coverage.

While most journalists are working from home using Zoom and Slack, the websites they write for are benefitting.

The number of minutes spent by readers at news sites increased 46% from the same period last year, and overall visits have risen 57% compared to a year before, according to of more than a dozen news websites by comScore.

Traditional news outlets like The Atlantic, Business Insider, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and others showed the biggest gains.

In addition, most of these outlets have scrapped the paywall for coronavirus-related content, a policy they were criticized for when users complained in the early days of the crisis that they major newspapers were censoring coverage of the conflict by forcing readers into a paywall.

The most viewed story ever at the Washington Post was apparently a story published March 14th titled: "Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to flatten the curve"

Other newspapers that have seen their readership increase in the past weeks due to the coronavirus include:

  • USA Today's online audience is up 30% year-on-year
  • has seen coverage grow 60% from the first week of March to the second, thanks to a highly-shared YouTube video that reached over 5 million views in a few days.
  • Hearst Magazines: 33% more readers compared with last year.
  • Vanity Fair: 44% jump in readership from last week after Trump attacked the magazine.
  • Huff Post: audience up 80% in recent days
  • BuzzFeed News: traffic up 44% in the last 10 days.

Overall news sites in the United States have seen subscriptions grow 57.5% compared to normal rates of subscriptions.

However it's not only a rosy picture.

The biggest hit has come from travel and hotel companies pulling adveritising deals as their businesses struggle. Newspapers rely heavily on advertising to finance their operations. Without this ad revenue, the increased page views bring little results.

Other newspapers have had to cancel live events and conference they organize, further hurting their business. While some of these events have moved online, most are being postponed or cancelled.

Outside the the major national newspapers, local papers have taken an even greater hit. These newspapers often rely on local and neighborhood businesses for advertising. But because of lockdowns taking place in several states and more likely to come, these newspapers have seen revenue from ads disappear.

Streaming service subscriptions surge on COVID-19

As people are forced to self-isolate and stay home, streaming services are seeing a huge jump in subscriptions.

Some NASDAQ analysts are predicting Netflix's year-on-year subscription growth for the North American market to be twice as high as previous predictions of 1.6%.

International subscriptions are expected to rise 30.9%, slightly above the previous estimate of 29.9%.

Other streaming services that are set to benefit from the increased indoor activity include Prime Video, Now TV, Hulu and Roku.

At the same time, the huge increase of people using streaming services while forced to stay home has led some internet providers to call for people to cool it with the streaming, as bandwith capacity gets tested.

The major streaming providers have been asked to lower quality to avoid an internet meltdown, however not all of them have complied.

In any case, streaming services seem to be an industry that will benefit greatly from the increased subscriptions as people stay home.

This has led to a host of deals from streaming providers, all competing to lock in new viewers amid the coronavirus.

eCommerce, Amazon struggle to meet huge rise in online purchases

Amazon Prime customers have started reporting that some orders of non-essential goods are getting delivery times of April 21st, or a month delay.

As a reminder, being a member of Amazon Prime is supposed to guarantee you delivery of any item within 1-2 days.

Amazon reported that it would begin to prioritize shipments of essential goods like toilet paper, soap and food staples over non-essential goods while the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

Overall the delayed delivery times masks just how much shoppers are turning to the eCommerce giant as they are forced to stay home. Even the world's number one online retailer Amazon has struggled to meet this surge in demand.

On Tuesday, Amazon released a list of six essential product categories it was prioritizing during the crisis.

They also announced they were looking to hire 100,000 more workers to meet the hiked demand.

Amazon has not yet announced whether it would refund Amazon Prime membership fees, which come in at $119 per year in the United States.

As for merchants who rely on Amazon to sell goods, Amazon's decision to avoid everything but the six essential product categories in their delivery plans means they are set to struggle.

For example, if you were to purchase an HDMI cable in order to better view videos from your laptop on your TV, you would not be able to order it off Amazon and get it without significant delays, up to a month.

With such long wait times, people will be encouraged to go outside and make the purchase in store, thus breaking the calls to for 'social distancing' now being sounded by governments.

Publishers complain media buyers blacklisting Coronavirus-related content

Publishers are complaining that vendors are preventing them from capitalizing on a huge upsurge in traffic driven by the coronavirus health crisis on the grounds of 'brand safety.'

Major news sites like Vox and the New York Times are preventing coronavirus-related content from appearing on their homepage. Chief revenue officer at Vox Media, Ryan Pauley, says this is a prime example of brand safety going past its intended solution that it's trying to solve.

According to Adage, publishers are sometimes not paid after a brand suitability block is executed. Where the money goes afterward is unclear.

On one side of the argument there are thsoe that say it is unethical to profit off the pandemic, and the brand safety blocks are a proper policy.

On the other hand, many publishers rely on revenue related to COVID-19 to stay affloat.

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