Media Buyers are Blacklisting Coronavirus Content, and It’s Damaging the News Industry

Advertising in a time of Covid-19

Calling all fellow marketers: blacklisting coronavirus content for your advertisements is harmful to your business, your communities and the entire news industry. 

“News organizations are working tirelessly to provide reliable and trustworthy information to their communities; a life-saving service at this unprecedented time,” states David Chavern, CEO of News Media Alliance. “Keyword blocking serves to punish publishers for this very same coverage, with potentially catastrophic effects.”

One of these catastrophic effects is already taking form. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported a recent drop in online ad revenue for publishers by a whopping 33 percent.

If we stand by and continue to block keywords, industry experts are concerned that the future of news will be a grim one and unfortunately, your organization and community won’t walk out unscathed. 


The Effect on News Organizations

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen that media organizations are suffering as advertising dollars grind to a halt. There have been hundreds of staff layoffs, significant salary cuts and hiring freezes across the entire news industry.

The reality is that, without the help of advertisers, publishers invest in coronavirus news at their own expense to keep their communities informed. 

But this type of business model isn’t sustainable, and will cause the quality and efficiency of journalism to suffer in the long run. 

“In the absence of your ad dollars, news organizations are losing journalistic resources,” says Dan Seaman, VP of product at Viafoura. “These organizations can’t step up and meet the demand for information if they’re unsupported.”


Protecting Consumers

In countries where governments can’t be trusted for reliable information, the survival of news companies is directly connected to the public’s well-being.

The Toronto Star’s CEO, John Boynton, turned to LinkedIn to send this message to advertisers earlier this month: 

“I also ask that you have staff speak to your ad tech supplier and have them stop “blacklisting” sites covering this COVID-19 crisis. It is very ironic/harmful that at a time when we need real journalism for safety purpose and we need to avoid sites that still carry fake news, that the advertising tech companies actually block sites that carry the facts.”

Information can save lives. And as the speed in which newsrooms provide fact-checked, critical information declines, marketers must act now if they hope to protect their communities. 

“It’s the support of businesses like yours that helps us continue to provide clear, accurate and trusted information to millions of readers through responsible journalism,” Boynton adds. 


The State of Advertiser Businesses

Based on data from previous recessions, Brand Consultant Mark Ritson describes on Marketing Week how companies that increased their advertising budgets during challenging economic times thrived both during and after a recession. In contrast, those who reduced ad spend during these times underperformed for up to three years following a recession.

Ritson also explains that marketers who keep injecting their ad budgets into campaigns right now will reap the rewards as competitors reduce or stop advertising altogether.

“Rather than pulling your budget and putting reputable brands out of business, you have an opportunity to get your brand in front of people and show solidarity and support to those who are living through this crisis,” Seaman stresses.

Plus, if you fail to support trusted news partners now, there may not be many left to run ads with in the future. 


The Solution

There’s a massive captive audience right now on news platforms. Marketers can use this to their advantage by adjusting their existing campaigns so they make sense in the context of coronavirus news. 

Ritson even suggests that one of the “strongest plays in advertising” is to actually increase your ad spend in this type of climate to help build your brand up. 

“If you are a brand with access to an advertising budget, you have a moral obligation to spend that budget on reputable news sources covering the coronavirus topic,” states Seaman. And the industry should be aware of which companies are punishing news organizations through their ad dollars.”

At the end of the day, we as marketers are largely accountable for the health of the news industry. So make a simple change to your business strategy that will keep newsrooms running and save the lives of countless people.

Author: Jesse Moeinifar

Founder & CEO of Viafoura, is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successes spanning a range of industries, including real estate, digital media and software. Dedicated to disruption, Jesse is passionate about game-changing ideas and credits his accomplishments to assembling teams of smart individuals committed to solving challenging problems.

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