Local media traffic spikes 48% in the wake of COVID-19

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As millions of Americans around the country are being ordered to shelter in place and work from home, newsrooms across the U.S. are working harder than ever to keep their readers informed on the latest news involving the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, traffic across the TownNews customer network — made up of more than 2,000 newspaper, TV, radio and web-native news sites — has spiked sharply.

TownNews customer sites are on pace to deliver a staggering one billion unique pageviews in March. In the past 22 days (March 1-22), TownNews' media clients are seeing a massive influx (compared to the previous 22-day period):

  • Visitor sessions have skyrocketed 48%.
  • Unique visitors have increased 40%.
  • Unique pageviews are up 44%.

The escalation began on March 9, and has continued at a steep double-digit rate as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on all aspects of society.

The increase in pageviews has led to a similar increase in ad impressions. Daily global programmatic advertising revenue has seen big gains, with ad requests up 42% (for the week ending March 20).

Unfortunately, any increase in programmatic revenue will not make up for steep advertising losses both in-paper (ROP) and preprint inserts. Broadcasters will also see steep declines in spot advertising, especially from local small businesses, due to ordered closures from local, state and national governments.

"Local newspapers, TV and radio stations, and local news websites need the support of their communities more than ever," said Rick Rogers, chief revenue officer at TownNews. "Everyone should consider buying a subscription or membership to these absolutely critical community resources."

He noted that publishers and CEOs of media companies are working with state, county and city governments to ensure that newspapers, newscasts and online reports are recognized as an "essential service," in company with necessary businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. Industry organizations like the News Media Alliance are at the forefront of the effort to ensure that local media organizations achieve this designation nationwide.

"Local media and journalism should always be deemed essential services," Rogers said. "In times like these, the data illustrates with vivid clarity that people rely on trusted news sources in their cities to keep up-to-date on the breaking news that impacts their lives, like the coronavirus epidemic.

"But quality, trustworthy journalism isn't free. Everyone needs to chip in, or we'll all pay the price."

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