OK, let’s just be blunt here: The world has been turned upside-down. It seems everyone is just trying to swim through murky and choppy waters right now, waiting for things to clear.
That being said, there are a few things on the business end that have been stabilizing and taking shape. At Keywee, we’re learning more from our customers every day. I want to share some of that knowledge with you today.
If you’ve read any trade media in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard about the spike in subscription rates for online publishers. I thought it would be a good idea to dig into this phenomenon a bit more with the data that we’re seeing at Keywee. So let’s jump in, shall we?
The Spike is Real
First thing’s first: The bump in subscriptions is something we’re seeing across the board. We’ve seen CPAs decrease dramatically since the crisis hit a tipping point (approximately the last 3 weeks). In some cases, we’re seeing CPAs dropping by around 70% (!), and almost all of our subscription publisher campaigns have seen CPA drops of at least 30%. These numbers aren’t final yet, as most campaigns haven’t yet hit their full attribution window. Still, this means that we expect CPAs will continue to drop for the next week or so, making the above numbers under-estimations.
Interestingly enough, conversion rates have not gone up in most cases. There has been a dramatic spike in traffic to most sites, and a drop in CPCs. CPCs tend to peak at the end of a month, and especially at the end of a quarter, but that didn’t happen in March:
In short, these unusual circumstances are effectively driving high volume at a low cost.
Looking at some outside sources, according to reporting from parse.lyCorona-related content accounts for about 1% of the content, but 13% of all page views. There have also been stories out there about publishers relaxing paywalls for coronavirus coverage and still seeing a spike in subscriptions.
We’ve been seeing the same thing at Keywee. My educated guess about why this is happening is that reading a higher volume of content has created a sense of loyalty, and has exposed more users to publishers’ other great content, leading them to subscribe as a result.
By the way – these numbers aren’t just for news publications. Publishers in the entertainment and leisure verticals have seen the same decreases in CPA, too. In fact, non-corona content campaigns have been some of our top spenders in the last few weeks. In a nutshell, it’s not just information people are seeking, it’s also distraction.
Hitting Close to Home
There are publishers who are clearly on the upper end of this curve, and those are the local ones.
One of our partners that publishes several local papers has had CPAs drop a whopping 78% across all of its sites in aggregate. A staggering number by any stretch of the imagination.
Amongst the local publications, top-converting stories tend to be more corona-related. Bigger and less location-specific publishers are seeing a more general range of content lead to sign-ups.
Another interesting point of note: conversion spikes here have not only happened in the last few weeks. In the cities and states where the virus was first detected in the US, the spike started to happen when it was detected – in some cases as early as the first week of February.
The lesson here? People are both sticking close to home and searching for a sense of community in a turbulent time, making local reporting more important than ever.
Creative Trends for User Loyalty
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you a peek into what content has been doing well across our subscription publishers. I’ve taken a look at the stories that have driven the highest loyalty over time, as those users are the most high-value. Here are a few interesting tidbits:
  1. Content with a sense of nostalgia: People want to commiserate about their isolation and what they miss, so headlines like “great restaurants we miss” and “things you could be doing if you were outside” are having a moment.
  2. How-to’s and guides: By now, you may have seen the data visualization by The Washington Post on why the coronavirus spreads so quickly and how to “flatten the curve,” which has become the most-read article in the history of the Post’s website. At the same time that fact-rich articles are seeing their time in the sun, misinformation is also running wild. People are gravitating toward practical advice from sources they trust.
  3. Real-life, unexpected implications of the current crisis: From snowed-out-state dwellers canceling sunny vacations, to film criticism when you can’t go to a theater – these types of stories give a compelling, somewhat editorial angle on the current crisis which helps them stand out from the crowd.
So that’s how we’re seeing things around these parts. What about you? Feel free to reach out and share what you’ve been seeing on your site.