"A lot of our advertisers were scared and cautious, so they paused all or most of their advertising. April was the worst revenue month I had seen in my 26 years in this industry."
“Q1 2020 was becoming a very strong revenue quarter for LOCALiQ (the digital marketing services division of the USA Today Network, of which these 3 daily newspapers – Gainesville Sun, Ocala Star Banner and Leesburg Daily Commercial – are a part of). The digital portion of our business was really accelerating. We had a good January and February and everyone was optimistic. Then in March things started to hit with Covid-19 and we watched revenues sink, as was happening everywhere.
April was terrible. A lot of our advertisers were scared and cautious. With the shutdown, they didn’t know what was going to happen to their businesses, so they paused all or most of their advertising. April was the worst revenue month I had seen in my 26 years in this industry.
In May, the LOCALiQ marketing team started working with us on how to do deep needs evaluations with our customers specific to how they were reacting to the pandemic. Asking our customers for example, ‘How are you reinventing yourself? What sanitizing practices are you doing? What’s your message to let the public know you're open now and safe?’ Around Memorial Day, we did a ‘Rebuilding America’ company-wide launch in all 260 markets with affordable multi-media advertising packages. The rates were standardized and less expensive than many of our older rates. Our LOCALiQ teams were really excited that we had great rates to offer people, especially during these challenging times.
It’s a win for the advertisers because we can do customized, targeted placements for them that put the ads not just on newspaper sites but on all of our networks. For example, a customer’s ad can be on gainesville.com and it also can be on the USA Today network. It can in fact be anywhere. It’s important for communities and businesses to realize that we’re not just about traditional newspaper advertising. We have evolved now into, “Mr. Advertiser, who are you trying to reach, where do you want to reach them?’ We're going to make sure that the ad goes to all those different sites and not just in a newspaper or on a newspaper site.
So, yeah, we crashed in April and hit rock bottom, and in May, we started to see the advertising decline slow down and come back up. June was definitely better and it has been going in the right direction ever since. It was really smart leadership from our company to get the message out that we’re here for our communities and our advertisers and with proven marketing solutions to help them. I know there were a lot of smaller newspapers and smaller marketing companies that have shut down for good, and that certainly breaks my heart.
For Q3, we had a strong comeback as well. The print side of the business is doing surprisingly well. The circulation declines that all newspapers have been experiencing were stabilizing as people were realizing that they need the newspaper, and especially online, where we’ve seen a lot of growth. I wouldn’t be surprised if pretty soon the digital subscriptions are going to equal the print ones. Digital is a lot less expensive and it makes sense when everybody's on their phones anyway or their tablets. People have become news-addicted and they realize there are multiple ways to get it – print, on local newspaper sites, social medial, etc.” - Rynni #Florida