How Crisis Resource Hubs Are Growing Readers and Revenue

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Putting COVID-19 resource sections prominently on your site and in front of any paywalls has been a win-win-win proposition for several publishers small and large. On Saturday Stephanie Williford, CEO of SIPA member EB Medicine, posted this on the Discussion Forum in response to an article about a subscription jump at Wired.
 
"We put our COVID content in front of the paywall on March 3rd and have seen an explosion in website traffic (153% increase) and a modest increase in subscriptions (9%) since the same time period last year," wrote Williford. "We're pretty happy with that all things considered—particularly since our customers (emergency physicians) are the ones on the frontlines managing this crisis. (They certainly have much bigger things to worry about right now than subscribing!) We also think the goodwill and brand awareness we're generating now will pay off in the long run. Plus, like the article below says, it was the right thing to do."
 
So that's increased traffic, more subscriptions and goodwill. Last week I reported that The Atlantic got a tremendous subscription bump, adding 36,000 new subscribers in the previous four weeks, according to a staff email from editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg. The surge happened, "even as we lifted paywall restrictions on our coronavirus coverage," he wrote.
 
In mid-March, Wired opened up free access to its COVID-19 pandemic coverage, moving that content outside of the metered paywall that limits non-subscribers to four free monthly articles. Since then, unique visitors to Wired.com rose 73%, and they're seeing an increase in subscriptions.
 
"We've seen more than a significant uptick in the total number of subscriptions we're generating right now," Wired site director Scott Rosenfield told Folio:. "Granted, traffic is up significantly as well, but we're well ahead of the goal we had set. It's a significant increase in subscriber growth from before the pandemic."
 
Last week, two large publishers in our Connectiv division opened their COVID-19 sections for free to readers. IEEE is providing direct access to a collection of various COVID-19 related research articles and standards to help researchers understand, manage and combat the many aspects of the pandemic. And Informa Pharma Intelligence has launched a free coronavirus content hub designed to provide key information related to the global virus outbreak, including the R&D and clinical trial landscapes, news, and market events for potential therapies and vaccines.
 
No word yet on traffic from those two publishers, but they are generating goodwill—as is EB Medicine's hub "We're also getting an incredible amount of exposure from doing this that we normally wouldn't get," Williford wrote. "Associations, international organizations and many others have been reaching out to us and asking to share/reference/link to our content."
 
SIIA has its own coronavirus resource hub. Among the many links there are ones about the Paycheck Protection Program. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations, and tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards. Here's the Final Borrower Application Form.
 
Two Associations See Big Traffic Jumps From Their COVID-19 Sites 
 
"We knew commercial impact was ripe for impact from this... and we knew this was something we had to address quickly," said Kathryn Hamilton, vice president for marketing and communication at NAIOP (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association).
 
"From a communications perspective, my biggest takeaway [from an initial call with our leaders] was that we... needed to create a microsite where all this content could be easily found. Thus the COVID-19 site was born." She added that NAIOP decided to open up their typically members-only webinars—for COVID-related content—to members and non-members alike. "We believe we have a responsibility to educate the industry." As of late March, they had more than 12,000 unique site visits to the page.
 
The American Staffing Association also has a COVID-19 microsite, said Marlene Hendrickson, senior director, publishing and marketing. The site has quickly surpassed their homepage for traffic. They have also proudly opened it to members and non-members alike.
 
"My members are staffing companies, businesses placing employees on job sites," Hendrickson said. So because of that, she said that the sample letters on the ASA COVID-19 site have been "very, very, very" popular. "We are not in the business of selling right now, however, we want to increase value to the entire industry and create those connections that will hopefully help our relationships in the future, whether it's with members or non-members."
 
One other side note with Wired is that in addition to the huge traffic increase, Rosenfield said the subscriber uptick is the result of a collaborative effort across their editorial, audience, product and consumer marketing teams—led by a free, daily "Coronavirus Update" email newsletter. Another call for eliminating silos.
 
If organizations were not publishing every day before this crisis, most probably are now. "Adapt your publishing schedule to the pace of the news," wrote Lyndsie Clark on the Niche Publishing Network site last week. "If you don't usually publish on your website every day, reconsider this during the pandemic when your audience is searching for the most up-to-date information. If they don't get the news from you, they'll find it elsewhere, and you may lose a subscriber."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…