While consumer attention to news media is at an all-time high in the wake of COVID-19, local media outlets are likely to see massive cuts to their advertising revenues putting their very existence at risk.
The advertising marketplace very much follows the trend of the economy at large: When the economy is strong, advertising revenues go up. However, when the economy shows signs of weakening, it is often bad news for media outlets nationwide.
Because their ads are largely supplied by local businesses — many of which are now shuttered indefinitely — local media outlets are often the first businesses to feel the immediate impacts of an economic downturn and they’ve already been taking a real hit from the “Duopoly” (Facebook and Google) for years.
Many local print outlets are pausing print distribution of their publications and distributing their coverage only online. Local radio stations are already making personnel cuts in an attempt to maintain their existence through this downturn. This all comes at a time when consumers have unprecedented amounts of time and attention they are dedicating to consuming local news as local journalists have become more necessary than ever in informing the public about essential precautions and the local impact of COVID-19.
On the brand side of the equation, many are now trying to assess their current and future prospects for revenue in this climate. The challenge is we simply don’t know what life looks like two weeks, or for that matter, two months from now. This makes it difficult to know just what messaging will work for brands in these uncertain times. Many brands, however, are stepping up — updating their creative for the times and letting consumers know they’ll be here for their customers. Others are so drastically impacted by the economic effects of this global pandemic that they have no choice but to pull their advertising budgets altogether.
It’s a bleak time to be in the media business. I truly hope that brands and media will work together to pull through this world pandemic together.