How to minimize the COVID-19 impact on publisher revenue

Trish Manrique COVID-19

Coronavirus USA. Symptoms of coronavirus. Coronavirus testing. Corona virus news. What is corona virus. Corona virus relief. Corona virus curve.

These are a few of the top trending queries in the US from the past week, according to Google Trends (as of March 19th, 2020). Here at Sortable, we know that the current state of affairs has been top of mind for us, and we’re working hard to minimize the impact of COVID-19 — by flattening the curve with work from home measures for our staff, and of course, working with our publishers. 

We’ve already started to see the effects of this pandemic as businesses start to implement business continuity measures. Some publishers are experiencing decreased CPMs as a result of the current pandemic, and for events and travel-focused content, we’re seeing a direct negative impact to traffic volume. Some advertisers are remaining cautious when it comes to ad spend, and are scaling back until the economic results of the pandemic are more clear— and publishers are feeling that pinch. Other advertisers are also becoming cautious about their brand being featured next to content related to COVID-19, and are issuing block lists.

During this time, there are several key ways to minimize negative revenue impact for publishers and Sortable is here to support you with all of them.

Let’s dig in to the top three:


It is important that you diversify your demand stack as a publisher. The more demand partners you have, the better.

With more demand partners bidding on your ads, you’re creating competition for your ad inventory and, in turn, increasing your site’s revenue. Having multiple demand partners allows for different ads and different types of ad formats (display, video, or native) to appear on your sites. There’s a wide range of CPMs between formats; a banner ad could have a $1.00 CPM, whereas video could be over $10.00 CPM — so choosing between formats can have an impact on your bottom line. 

We can also host your ads.txt which will automatically update as new demand becomes available. We are connected to over 30 advertising partners and have built our own Sortable server-to-server solution that’s connected directly to top DSPs.

Viewable ad refresh

This strategy refreshes ads within each ad slot, which has the effect of exponentially increasing a publisher’s overall ad inventory. If you increase your inventory, you can produce more revenue-per-session. Ad refresh is especially beneficial for sites with engaged users, such as those that spend a longer time on pages.

Sortable has seen viewable ad refresh increase revenue anywhere from 5% to 40%. For more information on ad refresh, click here.

Ad formats

As we said above, it’s important that you leverage a variety of ad formats, as the advertising world is moving beyond the simple static display, and formats are constantly evolving. We support both standard and unique, high-impact display ad sizes — and are rolling out support for Prebid native in the coming weeks. 

What’s Prebid native?

Native ads provide a more seamless user experience for visitors to your site, often resembling the look, feel, and function of your website’s content. Prebid native allows publishers to access unique advertiser demand for native ad formats through header bidding.  Incorporating both native and banner formats can increase competition and add incremental revenue.

Sortable Hosted customers will benefit from this demand for eligible placements on their site with no action required. Sortable Select customers can expect an update on how to opt-in to Prebid native in the near future — stay tuned for updates from our Product Team.

New ad formats like video are a great way to increase your revenue as video content is often the most engaging, and plays best with most demographics. If you are currently producing video content to monetize on YouTube, we can provide in-stream video support for your website to help you increase your CPMs by connecting you to demand. Our team will provide you with the player and all of the demand connections you need. 

These are the top three tactics that we recommend to minimize the impact on your business, but we have a few others up our sleeves as well.

Additional tactics:

Invest in Paid Media

Organic reach and email marketing will only get you so far when it comes to driving new traffic to your website. You can leverage paid ad spend towards search and social media to identify and target new audiences that will find your content valuable.

Consider allocating at least part of your marketing budget to paid search after identifying your top-performing content pieces. You can then promote your work across social channels like Facebook and LinkedIn to identify new segments.

By uncovering these new audiences to increase your monthly page visits, you’ll be able to diversify your revenue stream, and stem any decrease in overall return on investment.

Keyword block lists and COVID-19

Advertisers have begun to add COVID-19 related terms to their keyword blocking lists in order to secure their brand safety. 

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate news cycles the world over, advertisers have been quick to add terms related to the virus to their keyword blocklists to avoid any potential brand safety fallout from appearing adjacent to grisly articles”

– Lara O’Reilly, DigiDay

For news-related publishers, ensure your content is factually correct and referencing credible sources. If COVID-19 does not fit into your regular content, do not begin publishing content related to it. 

Have more questions on how to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on your advertising revenue? You can email us at to get in touch. We’re here to help.