With ad rates falling, Snopes can’t keep up with coronavirus misinformation
In the last 30 days, fact checking site Snopes had a 44% increase in traffic over the previous 30-day period, bringing in more than 36 million unique visitors as readers try to debunk the fake coronavirus news that is circulating right now. Despite that, however, the company’s ad rates are shrinking.
“There has been a decrease in CPMs as we’ve been approaching the end of the quarter and the expectation is that it’s going to drop off a cliff. We normally anticipate quarter two going more up and to the right, but we expect it to be flat or worse,” said Vinny Green, Snopes’ vp of operations.
The other issue of being a bootstrapped media company is that despite there being a higher volume of news to fact check, Green said Snopes’ business model isn’t enabling the company to hire more people to the newsroom.
“The idea that we were going to keep our team operating at 120% and combat the onslaught of misinformation wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
The company also provided it staff of 17 unlimited paid sick leave if needed, cash bonuses of $750 and scaled back routine content production so that the editors and reporters can focus more on the most pressing news items.
“We cannot come to the next pandemic and not be able to increase our capacity,” said Green, adding that the goal for Snopes’ leadership at this time is primarily to figure out how to strengthen its business model. “The choice is we either burn out or employees by chasing traffic or we say to the staff, we can’t treat this infodemic any differently because we literally can’t afford to.”
In December, Green told Digiday that advertising was antithetical to Snopes’ mission and that the goal was to transition to being mainly reader revenue-funded through the help of its membership model, which launched earlier this year. And while currently Snopes has 7,500 founding members (a founding membership costs $30), he said that he doesn’t expect this revenue stream to ever be the lion’s share of revenue that Snopes can support its entire operations on.
Snopes was profitable last year, according to Green. Its revenue breakdown, however, still puts programmatic advertising as the top revenue driver, with currently 55% of revenue coming from that stream. This has been declining since the beginning of the year, though. Year-to-date, 59% of the brands’ revenue was from programmatic ad sales. The rest of the revenue comes from the membership or contributions from readers, he said.
Andrew Goode, head of programmatic at Havas Media, said that like the rules of supply and demand, just because traffic is up for many publishers due to audiences’ consumption habits changing during quarantine, it does not mean that media buyers will buy the inventory. The priority will remain around finding meaningful places of engagement with the consumer.
In the case of Snopes, however, because of the general increase in coverage and fake news around coronavirus, a lot of the site’s fact checks cover coronavirus as well, Goode said that it leaves Snopes vulnerable to the issue of brands putting “coronavirus” towards the top of their blocked keyword lists and losing out on programmatic revenue.
Goode said 80% of Havas Media’s clients are blocking coronavirus content.
As for responding to Green’s prediction that Snopes will see a significant drop off of programmatic advertising revenue in the second quarter, Goode said he’s “anticipating there will be some impact” on programmatic spending as clients evaluate the economy and suspend their media spending. He declined to get more specific about what his clients were saying, however.
Bright spot: Food52 doubled its daily product sales last month
By providing additional marketing promotion to its struggling retail partners, Food52 is continuing to see growth in its commerce business.
As a paywall alternative, Vox.com asks for reader donations to fund coronavirus coverage
Vox is asking for monthly donations of up to $100 per month and one-time donations of up to $250 to support its coronavirus coverage.
Member ExclusiveManaging during crisis: How to cut costs and communicate tough decisions
During the wide-ranging talk, held virtually exclusively for Digiday+ members, former Comscore CEO Bryan Wiener explained which skills --decisiveness, focus and communication -- will make any leader, regardless of how experienced, ready to adapt their companies and come out of the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever.
SponsoredTV buyers are shifting from traditional demographics to more precise audience-based metrics
In traditional broadcast TV, age and gender have long been the dominant way of targeting audiences, but as TV and digital platforms converge, experts say the industry is steadily moving toward audience-based buying.
‘It’s important everyone steps up’: BBC Global News Jim Egan on media in a time of crisis
"Traditional rules and restrictions about getting processes underway are being put to one side."
How The Financial Times is adapting its events business
During a time where it’s broadly illegal for people in the U.S. and Europe to gather, The Financial Times is adapting its in-person event business. Wasting little time, the business and finance publisher hosted the first in a series of online events, called “Digital Dialogues,” on Wednesday, April 1. “The Global Economic Emergency” session featured […]