Digital Media’s Big Dilemma – To Back or to Block Critical Journalism in a Moment of Crisis

For years the industry has been urging media consumers to avoid ad blocking to secure the future of access to information from the free web. Since the late 90’s ad supported content has delivered everything from music and instructional videos to educational information and as we have seen quite clearly in the past weeks, access to reliable journalism based on facts.

Millions of Canadians have come to rely on the accurate, timely and continuous reporting from journalists and content producers at the local and national level. In a crisis like the one we face today with COVID-19, having potentially life-saving access to real facts and information we as citizens so desperately need, is more difficult than ever to produce and more vital than ever to support.

Despite the risks and the enormous challenges to produce accurate reporting, we have seen incredible leadership at the Canadian premium publishing level. From the removal of pay-gating, 24/7 coverage and valuable extra information and tools being developed, Canadian publishers are doing an outstanding job delivering free access to critical information to our citizens.

While over 90% of Canadian adults are consuming online media it is more critical than ever to support the publishers that are providing round the clock coverage to us all.

ComScore reports a substantial increase in news consumption:

Unfortunately, due to perceived brand misalignment and always-on content policies, we have seen a major pull-back on advertising against the entire news category. The word “coronavirus” is fast accelerating up advertiser blocklists, leaving an enormous amount of precious news inventory anemic of much needed ad revenue.

Next week, IAB Canada will be sharing the preliminary results from the Covid-19 impact study on an open industry call. Top line figures indicate that 90% of media budgets have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. More alarmingly, the barometer report suggests that 70-80% of buyers are expecting reductions of 20% or greater against site direct and programmatic display advertising as budgets shift even further towards shorter term, lower funnel activity like search.

Following are some considerations and areas of discussion we are currently having with our stakeholders:

Trust – an ultimate brand alignment

Many brands are looking to be helpful at this moment. Information is helpful and so supporting trusted media sources at a time when Canadians desperately sift through the noise and get to the truth can provide an excellent, helpful brand presence right now.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation reports that 88% of Canadians are convinced that misinformation about the coronavirus is circulating around the globe and more starkly, 47% of Canadians don’t know which news sources to trust.

Calibrating messaging is key

Now is the time to work with creative and media agency partners to understand whether and how your brand is in a position to help. Striking an appropriate contextual tone can be powerful and develop longer term brand trust and affinity.

Consider the Long Term

Be creative and discuss opportunities with publishers who might be able to work with you to develop longer term plans. While certain inventories are negatively impacted like sports, it doesn’t mean that they won’t come roaring back. Being a good partner can open doors to creative business solutions that could be beneficial when the crisis is behind us.

IAB Canada will continue to monitor this critical area of investment and we urge you to participate in discussions with your partners to develop smart investment plans that could very well help to save lives.