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How the Daily Beast is accelerating revenue diversification

The coronavirus crisis hit fast and hard and publishers were forced to make quick decisions on how to adapt their businesses to the new reality.

In the second edition of the Digiday+ Talks series, where industry leaders share how their businesses adapt during this tumultuous time, The Daily Beast.CRO Mia Lehmkuhl Libby explained how the Beast is seeing 30% declines in programmatic ad revenue but offsetting those with “three digit” increases in subscriptions, along with rising commerce and content licensing revenue.

“It’s never been more important to understand what you do well and why people come to you, from an editorial and a revenue perspective,” said Libby.

Still, Libby said business scenario planning is still very much month-to-month, adding that she does not “know where quarter two will net out until early-to mid-June.” Therefore, being nimble and approaching all revenue streams for the business with an open mind is more important than ever.

Digiday+ members can access full video of the Talk and Mia Libby’s slides below.

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What We Learned

More coronavirus coverage may come with lower ad revenue, but it drives memberships. 

Coronavirus content earns approximately $0.77 on the dollar in terms of advertising revenue, however, it performs very well in driving memberships because readers have a hunger for content that not only informs, but offers opinions and insights into the second-order issues coming out of the pandemic.

  • 75% of The Daily Beast’s content is now coronavirus-related or adjacent. Any news that relates to public health and safety is in front of the paywall, but anything that is opinion-based is locked up.
  • Readers don’t often convert on the hard news, so leaving it non-paywalled pulls readers into the brand’s ecosystem. Pivoting the paywall strategy to lock up top performing pieces will ensure that this coverage remains a revenue driver for the publisher.
  • Beast Inside, its membership platform, is seeing triple-digit growth in sign-ups during the pandemic, accelerating this revenue stream in a way that was not predicted at the beginning of the year.

Be flexible with your advertising partners when you can. 

Use this as an opportunity to be a partner that understands the challenges of your clients and focus on the long term relationship versus the short term gains. 

  • “Don’t go for the land grab of their last remaining dollars,” said Libby. In a global crisis, your business is not the only one that is being impacted so be understanding when a client is looking to pull back on spend or pull out of a deal entirely. 
  • Libby shared that one client from the travel industry had to pull out of a non-refundable campaign because not only was their business hit hard, but they had nothing to advertise at the moment. While it hurt to not have that revenue come in, rather than forcing the company to pay, The Daily Beast focused on the long term relationship of keeping them as a partner after the crisis subsides. 
  • Provide your clients with learning opportunities based on what you are seeing from the needs of your audience. If you pivot your content strategy, let your clients know and see where they have the opportunity to fit in.

“Nothing is the same and everything is different,” so pivot your strategy. 

Both editorial calendars and business plans were rendered completely irrelevant once the coronavirus pandemic hit, so in order to succeed, you have to launch programs across your portfolio that reflect the new reality. 

  • If you had a live event planned, make it virtual where possible. If people were willing to your event with a busy schedule, they will tune-in from home. This will also give your event sponsors an opportunity to continue spending with you to a certain degree. 
  • For commerce revenue, rethinking the marketing tactics to highlight what matters now and what will make readers’ lives better and easier at home has led to exponential growth in traffic and therefore, conversions. 
  • It’s OK to trumpet the fact that membership is important component to supporting your business’s operation right now. The Daily Beast did this with its audience and Libby said it led to a significant increase in sign-ups that has yet to to slow down.

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Event video
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See the slides
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Like most publishers, The Daily Beast has had a decrease in programmatic advertising revenue. Direct-sold advertising, commerce, content licensing and membership are all up.
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Providing your clients with valuable ways to improve how they do their jobs during this climate will also benefit you in the long run.
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Be flexible with listening to what your clients are asking from you. If they need to pause or pull out of campaigns, being amenable now will keep their business in the long run.
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Creating new opportunities and products that reflect the new reality will open up the doors for incremental revenue now, as well as partnerships down the road.
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