We’ve covered day-by-day how the economic effects of this pandemic have impacted ad rates. While some categories of websites have seen boosts, many publishers hit hard by Coronavirus have had to come up with creative ways to manage these sudden changes in digital publishing.

Recently, we interviewed two successful publishers on how they’re weathering the storm that’s been a result of the Coronavirus.

Robert Diamond

Robert Diamond is the Editor-in-Chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the internet’s top resource for Broadway shows, theatre, entertainment, tickets, and more.

Leander Kahney, founder of Cult of Mac

Leander Kahney is the Editor & Publisher of CultofMac.com, a resource for tech and culture through the lens of Apple. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author.

You can also watch the full interview with Robert Diamond of BroadwayWorld.com below.

Have your websites been hit hard by the Coronavirus?

BroadwayWorld:  Our traffic for last week compared to the previous year has doubled, which to be honest is the opposite of what I expected.

Broadwayworld Year-over-year traffic. Traffic increased despite the Corornavirus.

Note: Not only did BroadwayWorld’s traffic increase, so did their engaged pageviews.

Broadwayworld increase of engagement metrics along with traffic.

BroadwayWorld: Outside of that, revenue has gone way down. That is mainly because we have none of our direct advertisers. Programmatic ad revenue using Ezoic has picked up some of the flack.

Also, in average times, organic search would be the #1 driver of traffic for us. Looking at last week compared to last year, search traffic is down 40%, but social traffic is up at 625%. Email is up 50% and direct traffic is about 100% up as well.

CultofMac: Traffic is up slightly, which is good, and we’re hoping that it’ll increase as well. That’s one good sign is that traffic is up.

Cult of Mac traffic increase in March

CultofMac: This can probably be attributed to the fact people are home, and they’re on the internet all day. We’ve seen more engagement on Twitter and Facebook. We are hoping that with e-commerce that the traffic will continue to increase, and we’ll be able to make up some revenues with that. We have an online store where we sell Apple accessories, mostly for the Apple watch. And you know, so far it’s kind of holding steady, but we haven’t seen a big uptick. I’ve seen news stories of Amazon hiring 100K workers, a lot of people getting deliveries, so we’re hoping that e-commerce aspect will help us out in the interim.

We’ve also been doing more affiliate marketing and for the past week or so, and we’ve been pushing work from home equipment, stuff to help you work from home easier, home office, etc. The revenue hasn’t been tremendous. The problem is that all the other publishers are doing exactly the same thing. 

What strategies have you implemented since seeing these changes in the industry?

BroadwayWorld: We immediately pivoted as did Broadway itself. We are very lucky to be in a community of artistic and creative people. Literally the night that Broadway shut down we started reaching out to performers saying, “We’re starting an online living room concert series that you record yourself, then send to us.”

Broadwayworld's living room concert series

BroadwayWorld’s living room concert series.

Right away, everybody said yes to that. That was the first thing we did right out of the gate. It was picked up by CNN, the NYTimes, and other publications that were picking up stories about the Broadway shutdown.

So we pivoted in the virtual direction. We don’t have shows, opening nights, or red carpets to cover. But we do have a lot of people doing webcasts and streams, and we started several of our own new features, pulling content from our vaults and other videos we have never run before, top songs from previous concerts. We developed at least a 30-day content calendar to start. 

CultofMac: There’s definitely an all hands on deck feeling. Everyone is doing their jobs the best they can. We have been working on getting more into email publishing. That was something we started before this, and we’ve been looking for a new email partner. We just signed up with someone yesterday and will be launching some new newsletters this week. That’s going to be a major push.

The Coronavirus situation gave us a push to do that. Mainly because newsletters are another potential revenue stream that are not web display advertising. We’re hoping we can use those to diversify revenue streams a bit. We’re hopeful about it because they’re niche. Advertisers want to target the right kind of people, especially in niche audiences and we’re kind of hopeful about that.

How has Ezoic helped you during this time?

CultofMac: Our contact has been really good during this time; he’s been excellent and responsive. You guys have been communicative, but I’ve been looking at the ad price index every day, and that’s not a lot of good news. I don’t really go in and tweak the settings. I don’t want to mess it up.

BroadwayWorld:  

We always have been big fans of Big Data Analytics. That and our account team at Ezoic has been really helpful. We’ve looked at the traffic, the numbers, the fluctuation of ad rates, and said, what does this mean, is this right/wrong?

Big Data Analytics home screen

The team itself has probably been the most helpful. We’ve been leaning into them for a lot of things. We have a design update of the website that we’ve been testing. You gave us the advice to not push even a minor design update because we wouldn’t be able to attribute it to what’s going in the world vs. the new website design’s effect on UX. 

What I’ve always liked most about Ezoic is compared to companies that shall remain nameless that we’ve worked with in the past is you’ve always felt like true partners and extensions of the team. People to reach out to, people that have insights of what’s going on in the general world. You guys creating the Coronavirus blog and refreshing the ad index with live updates is a great example. Again, just a feeling that we’re all in this together.

What do you expect or hope for in the future?

CultofMac: I’m optimistic. We will get through this, even though it’s going to be difficult. Especially here in the States, it seems like we are going to be the world’s largest numbers. I’m hoping for a return to normalcy in the next couple of months, but it’s going to be a big shakeout. Things might look a lot different. Brick & mortar shops, retail, etc.—they might not be around. This was a general trend before the virus but now it’s accelerated. E-commerce will grow, the internet as a news platform isn’t going away anytime soon. I hope people continue to visit sites like ours.

BroadwayWorld: Obviously we’re hoping that things start moving in the right direction sooner rather than later. For Broadway as a whole, it requires a cast to be together on stage and 2000 people to be together in an audience. There’s seems to be a movement into streaming more theatrical content. That’s something I’ve always been a big believer in is to show off theatre off in new and unconventional ways. Hopefully, once things go back to normal those mediums will still be around to expose more people to the theatre.

On the website front, we’re learning from the content we’re doing—stuff like these live streams, more facebook live, Q&A videos, self-taped things. We’re already wondering in the back of our minds, is there are ways to continue doing this later on? Under the assumption the world Post-Coronavirus isn’t just going to be an “off switch,” and as things slowly return back to normal, we’re trying to learn from this experience. With these weird shifts in traffic patterns, we’re still figuring out what we can learn from that.

What have you learned during this process?

CultofMac: Specific to the Coronavirus crisis, it’s impacted us in terms of revenue. I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me was the amount of solidarity amongst my staff. This month they all volunteered when I asked to take half-pay because if not, I was going to have to lay people off. Everyone stepped up and now we can work through this together until things go back to normal.

Broadwayworld: I’ve learned a lot of it has been about teamwork. We’re lucky that I’ve always been an anti-office person. I had a day job for about a decade before Broadwayworld that turned me off to the concept of having to go into an office every day. So we were prepared for remote work. We’ve been very candid with the whole team about “Here’s where we here, here are the financials, here’s what’s going on in the real world, these are the goals: getting visitors in, getting traffic up.”

Now that everything normally we do content-wise is on hold, the question is what are we going to do next? We’ve had a lot of incredible brainstorming calls, a lot of ideas, and a lot of the execution—everybody on the team has stepped up in an incredible way. Something that this experience taught me was to open more to the team about challenges and stresses and thought processes that I’m going through as owner and Editor-in-Chief. Using more of the collective wisdom of the team. Being able to bounce ideas (good and bad) I’ve suggested and have the team work through them.

Wrapping up how these publishers hit hard by coronavirus have weathered the storm

Both BroadwayWorld and CultofMac have had to face new challenges in the past few weeks.

But these challenges have also pushed them into situations where their creative strategies must pivot in order to weather the storm Coronavirus has brought to ad rates and the digital publishing industry as a whole.

Above all, Ezoic publishers have a strategic advantage against those who just monetize with ads alone. Our 2020 Publisher Performance Report showed that the vast majority of our publishers, even if they experience decreases in traffic, will experience increases in revenue and EPMV.

2020 performance report quick stats.

How is this possible? Ezoic’s Ad Tester is powered by real machine learning that tests thousands of different variables. The A.I. can adjust for things like spikes (or drops) in traffic to still help you make more money over time.

Do you have any thoughts on these two publishers’ strategies? Let me know in the comments.