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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire business landscape has changed. Retail has swung dramatically month to month, and overall sales are down 8% since February. Many verticals have been hit hard, forcing brands to reconsider their ad and marketing plans, including media spend and partnerships.

These changes put publishers like you in a very unique situation since a large share of your revenue comes from direct ad buys, email sponsorships, programmatic, or other types of advertising. Fortunately, there are clear steps you can take to adjust your strategy to handle the downturn.

Step 1: Find alternate partners as some brand budgets tighten

While some verticals are clearly hurting right now, others are not. Retail may be down overall, but some brands are doing very well through ecommerce. However, some of these retailers are doing so well that they’re actually slashing their programs because they don’t want to pay for traffic when they’re seeing an organic boom. Amazon has cut its commission rates for this reason (for more on how to protect yourself if you are an Amazon associate, read our post here).

One of the first things you should do if you’re experiencing revenue volatility is seek out replacement partners for those that have put their programs on hold or reduced payouts. Odds are, your traffic is still very valuable to someone. While one retailer may not offer the same payouts for referrals, others may be ramping up their partnership programs in order to capitalize on the increased ecommerce spending.

After all, if the overall retail sector is hurting, odds are that some brands are going to invest heavily to stem the tide, while others who are doing well amidst these circumstances may look to get a leg up on competitors. Use data-based benchmark reports to see which brands are spending right now, and which may be ramping up their partnership programs.

Step 2: Pivot content strategy to serve users and attract new partners

Another option is finding new commercial partners in new verticals. Again, not all businesses are hurting right now. Food delivery is doing great. Flowers, gift boxes, and beauty brands are all actively pursuing partnerships as well. The caveat is that your content program may need some adjustments to entice these kinds of brands.

For example, take a publisher focused on personal finance and stock tips that might be experiencing a disruption with their typical partners, such as credit cards and investment platforms. Rather than focusing solely on the content that aligned so naturally with those bread-and-butter brand partners, this publisher can now explore building out a content hub for people who are struggling financially or out of work as a result of the pandemic. This content can focus on job resources, resume building, and financial advice for emergencies. Rather than providing guidance on how to invest $5,000 in the stock market, it can steer readers toward resources on unemployment. 

Whether it’s within their main domain or a new microsite, this pivot helps the visitors who trust the site. It also creates an opportunity to monetize their content with new commerce partners offering promotions that may help their same readers weather the storm, including, for example, a food delivery service that would not have partnered with the site otherwise.

Step 3: The path forward: Assess, communicate, experiment

You are well aware of your own capabilities for producing content and should have a sense of which directions you can move and the partners you are likely to attract. It’s possible to adapt quickly to macro trends and still serve the same loyal audiences that frequent your sites and make them so attractive to partners in the first place. This period of economic uncertainty may mark a time for experimenting with new forms of content and commercial partners that have been discussed in the past, but never formally approached.

This period of economic uncertainty may mark a time for experimenting with new forms of content and commercial partners that have been discussed in the past, but never formally approached. Click To Tweet

Above all else, communication is key. Talking openly with both active and prospective originating brands is vital amid these times. Content providers need to communicate proactively and assess their own partnership programs to ensure they are maximizing revenue opportunities as much as possible — and making the required shifts when necessary.

To learn more about how you can optimize your earnings through market volatility, reach out to

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