Study: Most Publishers Expect Revenue Decrease In 2020

by Sara Guaglione

In a new study, the IAB surveyed over 200 U.S. ad-supported publishers, programmatic companies and media platforms to see how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown is impacting ad revenue on the sell-side.

Of those surveyed, 98% said they expect a decrease in revenue in 2020.

Some 88% of news publishers surveyed said ad buyers had asked to cancel campaigns amid the COVID-19 crisis. Also, 86% said advertisers had asked to pause ads.

Those numbers were 70% and 79% for non-news publishers, respectively.

The study, called “Coronavirus Ad Revenue Impact: Sell-Side,” was conducted in the first week of April. It found that digital ad revenues are down from 19% to 25%, depending on the channel, and ad revenues for print were down 32%.

News publishers from BuzzFeed to McClatchy have had to furlough staff, cut salaries or let go of employees as a result of the global pandemic.

Chris Argentieri, the Los Angeles Times president-Chief Operations Officer, said earlier this week that advertising revenue has “nearly been eliminated.”

Advertisers are pulling back in an uncertain market. Others are blacklisting any online content related to COVID-19, resulting in billions of ads blocked on publishers’ sites.

In IAB’s study, 17% of news publishers said advertisers blacklisting their inventory was preventing them from doing business as usual, compared to 8% of non-news publishers.

News publishers are twice as likely to be blacklisted as others, due to COVID-19 content, according to the study.

However, publishers are also experiencing record traffic to the sites. Companies from The Atlantic to CNBC have seen huge surges in visitors, as people spend more time online under lockdown.

In a previous survey, the IAB surveyed nearly 400 companies on the buy-side: media planners, buyers, and brands. It found nearly one-quarter have paused all ad spend for the rest of Q1 and Q2.

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