Zimbabwean online publishers have been affected significantly by the slow-down of the online advertising caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A snap survey conducted by news.co.zw of a number of online news publishers shows that their revenues declined by between 40% and 60% from about March 2020 onward. One news publisher described the decline of advertising revenues after WHO declared Coronavirus a pandemic, as “a bloodbath”.

This decline has been felt both by those relying on advertising platforms such as Adsense and Taboola.

News.co.zw spoke to Toneo Rutsito, president of Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC), who acknowledged a gradual decline in advertising network revenues being earned by Zimbabwean news publishers. He was however hesitant to link all decline to the COVID-9 pandemic.

“It could be linked to COVID-19… As businesses reduce productivity, advertising and marketing budgets crash and Google Ads serves what is booked. But then still the Zimbabwean market has been generally paid less,” he said.

“The decline in Google based payments on YouTube and AdSense is greatly affecting many online content creators who predominantly depend on Google payments. 80% of Zimbabwe online content creators Revenue are served their ads by Google. This may force content owners to start looking at other platforms as Google continues to adjust their payments weight, biting Zimbabwe-based traffic the most.” he explained further.

Publishers in Zimbabwe were already suffering from a depressed economy in which the Google Adsense system pays much less than other markets like South Africa. Zimbabwe is simply a smaller market in terms of internet users. In addition, the value of the internet ecosystem is much lower as it has not developed much in the direction of eCommerce and other businesses deriving value from the internet. This means a much smaller number of advertisers targeting local Zimbabweans on the internet.

Globally, since the onset of the pandemic, advertisers have reduced or stopped their ad spend entirely. In April, some YouTuber creators (not in Zimbabwe) disclosed their ad earnings revealing that revenues were down at least 20% with some as high as 42%.

Indeed some publications registered a decline simply because the pandemic also brought to a halt the content they write about. Sports is one such niche. For a number of months, sports content publishers used to reporting on sports events had nothing to work with following the suspension of all such events. Without content, there’s no traffic and without traffic no advertising revenue.

With depressed advertising revenues that are not looking to pick up any time soon, news publishers and other content creators have to consider other news revenue models.

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