Why publishers have nothing to fear in a recession

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Advertising spending on social media platforms is starting to fall. Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) reported that average revenue per user fell to $9.41 in Q3 2022 vs. $11.57 in Q4 2021 (source). And, more recently, it’s been reported that ½ of Twitter’s top advertisers have left in the last month (source). This represents a significant opportunity for publishers to regain advertising market share.

This shift of ad dollars away from social media creates a once-in-a-decade opportunity for publishers. Even as worries of an economic downturn cloud the horizon, there are several significant opportunities for publishers who innovate using these strategies.

Four Ways Bold Publishers Can Win In The Downturn

Rising interest rates, increasing unemployment (although still at historical lows…), and other signs of economic distress are starting to bite. A downturn is a perfect time to experiment with new approaches and methods to grow engagement and increase your value to advertisers. 

1. Offer Exclusive Access To VIPs In Online Events

Exclusive Access To VIPs

Reddit, a mid-sized social platform, is known for its successful “AMA” (ask me anything) events. Past participants in these events include Jeopardy! champion, Ken Jennings, businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates, and countless other CEOs and authors. These events are popular because they give the audience a unique chance to interact directly with a celebrity.

As a publisher, you have relationships with politicians, athletes & community leaders. A city news publication might organize a panel or AMA event with the mayor, local investors, or local sports team. There are a few ways to pursue this idea: large-scale public events and exclusive smaller events.

Public Event With VIPs

This event format is a great way to maximize your audience and advertising revenue. For example, a lifestyle magazine might organize an event on local craft breweries. Offer attendees the chance to ask questions, enter draws for free drinks and meet fellow fans. This focused event makes it easier to sign up for paying event sponsors because your audience is more likely to be focused and engaged.

Running a successful event public event will take more planning. There’s an increased risk of inappropriate content when anybody can attend the event. That’s why it is essential to use a live chat platform with both manual and AI automated moderation features like Arena Live Chat. If running a large-scale event isn’t a good fit for your publication, consider offering a smaller event just for your paying subscribers.

Subscriber-Only Digital Events And Benefits

The disadvantage to a public event is the scale – you may have hundreds or thousands of attendees! Creating connections with your guests and audience can be difficult at that scale. That’s where exclusive events for your subscribers play a role. Here are a few examples of subscriber-only digital event experiences that publishers offer today.

The Economist Subscriber-only digital events

The British publication offers live events to its subscribers on topics such as The World Ahead 2023, The Year In Review, America’s Election Results, and China and Ukraine at war. The Economist’s digital events are relatively short – just one hour. Organizing a one-hour virtual event with a few of your top journalists is accessible to most publishers. It’s also a great way to surprise your subscribers with additional value.

The New Yorker Festival

The New Yorker Festival is a multi-day event featuring world premieres of documentaries, political events, and events with celebrities. The publication offers subscribers a 30% discount on ticket prices for the event. In addition, subscribers get early access to buy tickets. The New Yorker event has in-person and virtual aspects. The New Yorker approach takes more time and effort to organize. It’s also a powerful way to distinguish your publication from others.

With these smaller events, it’s smart to promote the limited nature of the event. For instance, if you only have 50 seats, emphasize that fact. In a smaller event, each attendee will have a better chance of having their questions answered.

2. Curate The Gold In Social Media Content

Gold In Social Media

Editorial judgment is one of the most important ways publications add value to their audiences. Your journalists know their beats inside out. You can use that expertise to curate the best in social media for your audience. There are a few ways to curate social media content for your audience.

Enrich Your Coverage With Social Updates

Many publishers offer a live blog or series of breaking news updates when a major event occurs, like an election, sporting event, or conference. Publishing a steady stream of news updates as an event can tax the energy of your journalists. With Arena Live Blog, you can pull in social media updates through hashtags & specific accounts and apply filters to ensure brand-safe posts.

Fact Check Social Media Posts

Misinformation on social media is a major problem. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee published an analysis of COVID-19 misinformation trends in 2021 that illustrates one aspect of the problem. The study found that “fake cure” Tweets were common in the western US, while “Covid as a hoax” misinformation was more common in the mid-West. 

Communicating complex scientific information, which often involves probabilities and uncertainty, is challenging. For publishers with professional reporters, evaluating this information critically is a strength. Fact-checking rumors, misinformation, and other social media content is important for publications to add value to their audience.

Invite Social Media Influencers

Many publishers have struggled to maintain a large staff of professional journalists, while others have closed up shop entirely (we miss you, Protocol!). Inviting freelancers and qualified influencers from social media to share their thoughts with your audience can help. For example, a growing community of true crime enthusiasts on social media are hungry to find the guilty and free the innocent. Inviting true crime influencers like Kendall Rae (over 3 million YouTube subscribers) and Shaun Atwood (over 700,000 YouTube subscribers) is one way you can enrich your coverage further.

Create the Best of Social Media Lists

Keeping up with all of the latest developments on social media is difficult! Help your audience save time by recognizing the best social media accounts in niche areas. Praising influencers is one of the best ways to get their attention and start building a relationship. After you feature them in one of these lists, you may find it easier to invite them to contribute to your website or join events.

Connecting your publication to other digital experiences may start with social media but it shouldn’t end there. Enriching the streaming experience represents another way to win in a difficult time.

3. Enrich The Streaming Experience

Streaming Experience

The average American household subscribes to 4.7 streaming services according to Bloomberg. However, Bloomberg also estimates that streaming service growth may have plateaued for the foreseeable future.

The relatively low cost of streaming services means they are likely to be somewhat recession-resistant. Unlike other leisure activities like travel and restaurants, streaming service costs remain relatively affordable for many households. 

If there is a significant economic downturn in 2023 or 2024, affordable leisure activities like streaming services will likely gain more attention. That creates an opportunity for publishers to engage streaming fans more deeply. If your organization has significant entertainment news staff or access to stars, that is a significant opportunity!

There are a few ways to build or grow audiences around streaming service programming. 

Organize Viewing Parties

Invite your audience to open their Netflix, Disney+, or other streaming service and watch the latest release alongside your staff. This type of virtual event works best when it is tightly focused. For example, a viewing party focused on fantasy adaptations like “House of the Dragon” or historical dramas like “Bridgerton” are more likely to attract audience attention. Use Arena Live Chat to power this event and make it easy for your audience to share their reactions as the event unfolds.

Invite Fans Behind The Scenes With the Cast and Crew

The chance to see your favorite actors, writers and directors talk about their work is incredibly appealing to many fans. Inviting a few cast members to a virtual event is relatively easy and low-cost. If you give fans the opportunity to ask questions, they’re likely to stay to the end. 

Working with streaming services may not be suitable for all brands. What if you are focused on a different niche, like fashion and beauty? There’s another low-cost way for publishers to build their audience and keep people coming back for more: user-generated content!

4. Leverage The Authenticity of User-Generated Content

User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) built the social media platforms. It’s time for publishers to embrace user-generated content in new ways beyond comments on news articles. 

Thoughtfully highlighting UGC on your website is smart because it can bring additional trust and engagement. Social Media Today reports that consumer-created content is perceived to be the most trustworthy. UGC is also considered the most significant in influencing purchase decisions. For media brands like the Wirecutter that generate affiliate sales, featuring UGC on your website makes sense.

While exciting, increasing the amount of UGC on a publisher’s website needs to be done carefully. Publishers need to exercise editorial oversight over this content including enforcing their codes of conduct. To reduce the burden of oversight, starting with less polarizing content themes like lifestyle topics and sports may be helpful. Influencers with a few thousand followers may be willing to contribute to your publication in return for exposure. 

Do You Have The Right Technology To Grow Your Digital Audience?

A growing, highly engaged audience is indispensable to growing advertising revenue and thriving in tough times. Allow your audience to interact and join events with Arena. Arena Live Blog is the perfect tool to enhance your coverage of breaking news. Arena Live Chat is what you need to create more engaging digital events. The economic downturn is your opportunity to grow – seize it!

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