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Coronavirus and digital media industry trends: 4/17/20

This week in the industry, we’re seeing publisher RPMs stabilize and a major change to the Amazon Associates program that may prompt publishers to reconsider their ad strategies. Early Q2 RPM trends We’re over two weeks into the second quarter...

By Paul Bannister

This week in the industry, we’re seeing publisher RPMs stabilize and a major change to the Amazon Associates program that may prompt publishers to reconsider their ad strategies.

Early Q2 RPM trends

We’re over two weeks into the second quarter of the year. Things are still better than the end of Q1, albeit the trend is quite flat. CPMs and RPMs for most publishers are not moving much in either direction. While everyone would love to see an upward trend, things actually aren’t too far off from 2019’s trendline — when there wasn’t a pandemic massively impacting ad spend.

This chart shows the trend of RPMs for all CafeMedia publishers indexed to 100 for April 1 of each year. This allows us to compare the trend from last year to the trend from this year to see if things are better, worse, or the same. Clearly things are trending a bit worse than last year — we’d want the two lines to be right on top of eachother if the trend were the same.  

But while 2020 is trending behind 2019, it’s not that far behind. While performance that’s “slightly worse than last year” isn’t ideal, it is a significant improvement over the declines the industry experienced in March. We continue to see some optimistic signs that things will remain flat (rather than down) for a while, and then as quarantines begin to lift and businesses begin to reopen, things will start to (slowly) move in a positive direction.  

Amazon Associates Program cuts commissions

This week, Amazon announced changing commissions in their affiliate program across many key categories, starting April 21. As an example, the “Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Pantry” category will see commissions reduced from 8% to 3%, and “Health and Personal Care” will change from 4.5% to 1%.

The change and subsequent revenue impact comes at what is already a challenging time for many digital publishers. In addition to exploring alternative affiliate options, publishers can consider revisiting their ad strategy on affiliate-based content to recoup some lost revenue.

While the click-through rate on display ads is quite low, many publishers prefer not to run display ads on affiliate revenue-focused stories. It’s an important time to reconsider this, given Amazon affiliate RPM (earnings per 1,000 pageviews) is set to decrease drastically.

As always, we’ll continue to update here as the situation changes – stay tuned for more industry trends and news next week.

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