The Publishers' Dilemma. Traffic is Increasing, Advertising Revenue is Falling.

In the past few weeks, digital news publishers have experienced a true rollercoaster ride. On the one hand, pageviews increase massively. More and more people are getting information online about the situation in their country regarding Corona. On the other hand, there is a lack of bookings by agencies and advertisers who have frozen their advertising budgets. In some countries, the government supports media companies with ad bookings, but this only covers a fraction of the lost in revenue.

The high website traffic thus stands against empty advertising inventory.

TCF as another challenge

As if that was not enough: Since April 1st, 2020, many website operators have also lost sales of programmatic advertising after Google decided to join the IAB Europe TCF standard. This means that advertising is only shown if two conditions are met: First, the publisher must have integrated a Consent Management Platform (CMP) that implements the TCF 2.0 standard. Second, the website visitor must accept via CMP those cookies that are necessary to “play” programmatic advertising. Our publishers anticipate a drop in advertising sales of 20% or more.

Infrastructure costs explode

So far, we have only looked at the revenue side of the dilemma. If we consider the expenditure side, the abyss becomes even bigger. A massive increase in traffic, e.g., 40% more visits to Germany's most visited website in March 2020, also lead to a considerable increase in infrastructure costs. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are happy about this, since they generate more sales than ever before with their cloud services, but the situation for the publisher worsens.[1] – führt gleichzeitig zu erheblich steigenden Infrastrukturkosten. Das freut zwar Amazon, Google und Microsoft, die mit ihren Cloud-Diensten wohl soviel Umsatz machen wie nie zuvor, für den Publisher verschärft sich die Situation hingegen noch weiter.

Since the need to implement TCF 2.0 is a must, this also leaves a dent in the balance sheet of many, especially smaller, publishers who simply cannot afford a CMP.

And now the good news

People are not only surfing the Internet more but are also communicating and interacting more often than ever before. In March 2020, Pinpoll saw a 39% increase in user interaction for our portfolio of more than 500 publishers. At the same time, the interaction rate has increased by 20%, i.e. more people than before interact with elements on a website (e.g. with polls, quizzes, comments, forums etc.).

This offers digital publishers an unprecedented opportunity to take advantage of this higher rate of interaction by preparing themselves to understand their readers better, so that when normality returns, they can take advantage of the boost in advertising bookings, even though their website traffic will likely decrease. I.e., better understanding of readers wants and needs = hyper targeted advertising opportunities.

The opportunities

Publishers can view this challenging time as an opportunity to create quick wins, which will have a lasting impact on the entire company.

Quick-win 1: Increase loyalty

Interactive elements such as a short opinion check is a sure-fire way to connect readers with the content that has been published that day. However, this must be done regularly, e.g., as a “Question of the day” that goes online every day at 15:00. This can also be used to create new content for the next day (“How readers have voted”), which would increase the rate of returning users, again being an important indicator of visitor loyalty.

Quick-win 2: Collect leads

Currently, users are more willing to participate in completing polls and/or forms online, which not only results in a higher interaction rate, but also in higher conversion rates. This can be used to bolster a newsletter database or even generate more subscriptions for paid content.

Quick-win 3: Generate first-party data

Slightly different to the previous two objectives, the 3rd quick-win aims on understanding your readers better by collecting detailed interests and characteristics. Now that you have collected first-party data, the creation of bespoke “Audiences” is inferred which can be used later to optimize advertising spend. This directly impacts the increase of CPM as soon as bookings come in again. Another advantage of generating your own first-party data will be combating the impending changes Google Chrome will make in 2021, where all third-party cookies will be blocked. This means that audience data will no longer be accessible through DSPs. With the adequate preparation of your own first-party data, you may activate your own pool of audiences when required.

Hands on

Practice follows theory. We have prepared a short example here of what an opinion check with subsequent lead generation can look like.

By the way: This opinion check suggests that everyone who clicked “Yes” is an “Optimist”. This target audience would be very interesting for the National Lottery, for example. Wouldn’t this present an immediate advertising booking opportunity?

Partner required

In order to achieve these three goals, the use of appropriate software solutions is necessary, since DIY is usually not feasible for publishers.

Pinpoll offers everything you need. Request your free demo now.


The dilemma described will continue to be repeated in the future, even after the uncertainty of the Corona pandemic wears off. Digital news publishers should therefore prepare accordingly. This requires creative approaches and to think out the box.

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