A survey by the International News Media Association (INMA) has found that 62% of news media companies are already reporting a sudden fall off in advertising due to COVID-19.

The 56 brands surveyed, representing global, national and other large companies, said the fall had mostly been felt across branded content, travel, events, programmatic, and tourism. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there had been a pick-up in ads for food and groceries.

Only one respondent reported a decline in reader revenue.

About half of the companies said they had contingency plans in place to respond to the pandemic and the result is a transformation in the way companies are operating, with a combination of virtual environments, and tightly restricted in-person workplaces.

For 56% of brands, the biggest challenge was balancing competing priorities: the well-being and health of employees versus commerce and revenue and travel restrictions and policy versus longer-term matters. A further 29% said “fear and misinformation” was their primary concern, and 27% cited a lack of structured guidelines to help them manage their response to the virus.

Sustained working from home is perhaps the biggest change for many employees who have not done this consistently before, the INMA says. Businesses were having to manage the new work/home balance as challenges and issues arose.

Meanwhile, NiemanLab reports the virus crisis is already threatening the very existence of some smaller publications in the US. The story of The Stranger, a 28-year-old Seattle-based bi-weekly newspaper, is instructive.

Its main challenge is that 90% of its revenue is tied to “people getting together in groups” and the “the coronavirus situation has virtually eliminated this income all at once”.

Efforts in Washington state to limit the spread of COVID-19 have been far-reaching. They include banning gatherings of 250 people or more in three counties around Seattle.

“Put simply,” says NiemanLab, “what we’re seeing in Seattle is a sobering look at what publications across the country that are dependent on advertising from events, concerts, and the like may soon be facing.”

Something very similar is taking place in Austin, Texas, where the alt-weekly Austin Chronicle relies on the SXSW event for a major part of its revenues; the event has been cancelled for this year.

Both The Stranger and The Chronicle are appealing for donations.

Sourced from INMA, NiemanLab; additional content by WARC staff