STUDY: Most Publishers Saw Quick Rebound After Pandemic Losses

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Top publisher performers largely unaffected due to ability to react to change and holistic visibility into business

Boostr, the leading omnichannel CRM and Order Management platform designed for media and advertising companies, today announced findings from its inaugural Media Ad Sales Trend Report, which reveals how publisher ad sales performed during the pandemic and explores the strategies publishers used to ride out the storm. The report found that more than two-thirds (67%) of publishers’ pandemic-impacted revenue rebounded by fall of last year, and 94 percent reported stable revenue by the year’s end. Thirty-eight percent attributed this to the ability to quickly react to market needs, while one-third (33%) said it was due to the essential nature of publishers amid the pandemic and consumer behavior changes.

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Overall, top-performing publishers were able to grow despite the pandemic. The top 25 percent saw a year-over-year revenue growth of 26 percent, as opposed to the median rate of 8 percent. While the median saw losses from March to July with flat growth in August, top publishers only saw negative growth from March to April before bouncing back in May. In contrast, the bottom 25 percent of publishers saw a loss of 50 percent between March and July, and are still struggling to recover in 2021.

“2020 was a year of resilience and resurgence for publishers,” said Patrick O’Leary, Boostr co-founder & CEO. “The industry was in the perfect position to embrace, and ultimately leverage, rapidly changing consumer behaviors, interests, and uncertainties. However, there were clear winners and losers. Those that had full visibility into pipeline, forecasts, sales activity, products, and inventory were able to identify where new opportunities were and what products were needed to win them. And, unfortunately, those with more antiquated processes, product offerings, and technology are still suffering losses to this day.”

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Other key takeaways from the survey include:

  • Building and Maintaining Relationships Remotely Among the Biggest Challenges Publishers Face
    • Meeting revenue targets (19 percent), working remotely (18 percent), and selling amid the cancellation of in-person events (16 percent) were the top three challenges publishers faced during the pandemic.
  • Publishers Need to Keep Money to Make Money
    • There was a 50 percent correlation between client revenue retention and growth, which suggests that the publishers who were focused on retaining advertiser clients and deal sizes also were successful in increasing revenue overall.
  • Number of Products and Efficiency are Keys to Success
    • The number of deals that included multiple products increased by 37 percent, proving to be an effective approach to offsetting lower deal quantities. Top performers showed a 48 percent increase in multi-product deals compared to a meager 12 percent increase among bottom performers.
    • When it came to sales cycle length, there was a sizable spread of 29 days between top and bottom performers, suggesting once again that operational efficiency and transparency may be significant factors here.
  • The Tech and Telecom Advertising Category Emerges A Leader in Both Revenue Growth and Share
    • The only category that was in the top 5 for both YoY revenue and revenue share was tech and telecom, which grew 31 percent and a 16 percent revenue share.
    • Unsurprisingly, the data showed that the travel category saw the largest year-over-year revenue decrease at -56 percent, followed by utilities at -32 percent.
    • CPG and retail accounted for 25 and 15 percent of revenue respectively, which is nearly flat from the previous year, but still had negative YoY growth.

The insights in this report were derived from two sources. We analyzed 54 primarily digital U.S.-based media companies within the Boostr platform from January 2019 to December 2020. Additionally, we conducted a survey of 200 U.S.-based media executives across sales, ad operations, revenue operations, finance, and marketing functions in March 2021.

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