A Glimmer of Hope for Publishers
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March 23, 2020

At the start of the outbreak, it was clear that media businesses would be facing devastating advertising losses – which is currently happening. This is mainly due to the fact that a huge part of the free publication’s advertising base is from events, entertainment and nightlife. Those activities have quickly disappeared in countries all over the world.

Nevertheless, we have heard from many publishers that they have had a few small wins amidst the chaos.

Here’s a list of a few things to be optimistic about:

  1. Early indications are that many news organizations that have dropped their paywalls for coronavirus coverage are seeing good increases in paid digital subscriptions. Alternatively they can harvest email addresses for prospect lists by requiring mandatory registration to access COVID-19 stories or related newsletter products.
  2. After years of hesitation about whether journalism merited support, community foundations are beginning to team up with big national outfits like the Knight Foundation and Lenfest with grants to bolster coverage. For-profit papers are among the recipients.
  3. Many publishers will come out of this crisis less dependent on print, with its declining-anyway ad revenues and punishing production and distribution costs. In short, they will survive by transitioning, by necessity, to more robust digital operations.
  4. Overall, the public gives the media fairly high marks when it comes to their coverage of the virus. 70% of the readers say the news media are doing very well (30%) or somewhat well (40%), while just about three-in-ten say they are doing not too well or not well at all (29%), in terms of Coronavirus coverage and reporting. Ratings get even higher when it comes to the specific sources people turn to most.
  5. While reading more about the virus can contribute to anxiety and even hysteria, much of what people are reading appears to be practical, informative, and action-oriented. That is, people aren’t just reading articles about what’s happening – they’re learning what they can do about it.
  6. The Facebook Journalism Project is partnering with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association (LMA) to offer a total of $1 million in grants to support US and Canadian local news organizations covering the coronavirus. These grants will help fill immediate gaps for resource-constrained newsrooms covering the impact of the coronavirus in their communities.

The times we are living in are challenging to say the least, but they do bring out the best in us. Let us all stay safe, focus on the positive, and work towards a better tomorrow.

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