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Part 2: The Impact of COVID-19 on Publishers in Malaysia

Part 1 of our blog highlighted the transformations and strategies made by some of the publishers in Malaysia. Our part 2 continues with how several other publishers have turned the challenges they’ve faced during COVID-19 into purposeful changes. 

1. How has COVID-19 affected your site?

Vulcan Post: We had to overhaul our content plan for the upcoming months as audiences’ interest skewed heavily towards COVID-19 related topics. Therefore some of our usual content had to be put on hold and we had to relook and redirect our content to be more relevant. Since we could not access our studio and video equipment, our team had to brainstorm new forms of content to fit our audiences’ needs.

Siakap Keli: The impact of COVID-19 was quite big for my site. I believe this is because most businesses have frozen their marketing budget in order to cope with the uncertainty caused by this pandemic.

Ringgitplus: During this time when Malaysians are consuming more online content than ever before, our editorial team put immense effort to provide relevant news updates and complement them with useful guides to help Malaysians to both be informed and be empowered to make smart financial decisions.  We also doubled our efforts in posting more news updates, especially news regarding financial aids to the Rakyat, namely the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) under the Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package.

Motherhood: Our traffic in terms of page views and unique visitors are relatively healthy across March and April despite COVID-19. With this pandemic, consumers are also relying on online platforms to fulfill their needs on shopping, learning, engaging, and socializing. In response to this, introduced online workshops, live sessions with a panel of experts, user-generated content such as sampling, and review to engage with moms and families.

Eat Travel Love: During the MCO period, audiences spent more time on social media and our data shows a spike in the number of readers and page views, the time readers spent on our site increased as well.

2. What are the strategies or marketing plans that have been made in response to COVID-19?

Vulcan Post: Understandably, most of our clients and advertisers had to cut their marketing spend quite drastically. So for the first time, we decided to offer our articles and videos at a discounted rate. This way, our clients will still be able to get some marketing efforts going at a much lower price and we were able to maintain our cash flow. We also kickstarted an e-newsletter specially written for our clients to keep them in the loop of what we’re doing and also lessons learned from our experience with content production. 

Siakap keli: We’ve carried out promotions to our clients during this period, which has shown to be quite effective. 

Ringgitplus: In the first few weeks of the MCO, we conducted a nationwide survey to see how ready Malaysians are to face this global pandemic and the economic repercussions that come with it. The survey found that over half of the respondents don’t have enough savings to survive for more than two months, and 57% of business owners will be forced to close their businesses within three months. We also launched an initiative called “SaveMoneyWithHann”, which is a series of articles written by our Co-Founder, Hann Liew to help Malaysians understand how to navigate through these difficult times and how to take advantage of financial products. 

Motherhood: We understand that many brands are facing challenges in retail and trade sales, which in turn forced marketers to change their plan to adapt to new norms. As a result, we came up with integrated campaign packages to help brands promote their products and services. We also launched smaller marketing packages to help brands kick-start their online official store on our website and enable their online sales channel.

Eat Travel Love: We gave our hands to SME in helping them promote their businesses and services at the lowest rate with the biggest returns. We also suggest that businesses should advertise during this period as the costs of advertisements are much cheaper than usual.

3. Were there any changes in the audience’s behavior?

Vulcan Post: We noticed that readership from browsing on desktops increased, even on weekends. During the first and second months of the MCO, our desktop-to-mobile ratio for readers went up to 50:50 instead of the usual 40:60. However, now the ratio is returning back to the usual, perhaps due to CMCO and more people returning to work.

Siakap Keli: Audience engagement increased on our site and according to the data from Facebook and GA, we have seen a 30% increase in traffic since the outbreak started. On top of that, there are also more readers coming in at night.

Ringgitplus: Traffic for the product applications for credit cards and personal loans dropped significantly by up to 60%, possibly due to the uncertainty and panic caused by the Movement Control Order (MCO). Our search trends during this period were the lowest ever since we started tracking them. In contrast, traffic for our blog increased tremendously. We found that simplifying personal finance news, offering guides and in-depth analyses struck a chord with Malaysians. Now that we are entering a “new normal”, we are seeing signs of recovery in terms of traffic into product applications. 

Motherhood: Engagement has been growing positively on both content and commerce platforms. Audiences are now shopping online more and we experienced higher interest in sanitizing products, grocers, baby essentials such as formula milk, diapers, and baby care products.

Eat Travel Love: With audiences being more accepting of purchasing products online, we suggest businesses implement delivery services for businesses with digital marketing promotions to engage with more consumers.

4. Will there be any changes in direction for the site in the future or post-COVID-19?

Vulcan Post: We want to continue to do what we can to support local businesses and brands so we will likely continue to offer discounted rates to our clients. Content-wise, we will keep sharing information, educating readers and business owners on how to navigate through this "new normal" and provide exposure for local startups who need it now more than ever.

Siakap Keli: We believe that this pandemic will have a long term effect. However being a digital business, we are already on the right track so there will be no changes in direction. If we are to add more products, we will make sure they would be digital!

Ringgitplus: The social effects of Covid-19 brings our core mission to light which is to enable easier access to financial products and information for all Malaysians from an online channel. In recent months we are working a lot more closely with financial institutions as we embrace the new normal. In addition, we are focusing on developing more products that can help Malaysian to ease the stress in making the right financial decisions while at the same time being updated on financially related news and financial literacy subjects. 

Motherhood: The pandemic has leveled the playing field for online vs. brick-mortar; and we anticipate more and more people will be internet-savvy and open to online shipping. With people becoming more accustomed to digital content, our site is also now extending our audience reach to families and parents with older kids. We will be generating a lot more content on health and wellness, education, and enrichment to guide our audience as they go through this life-stage.

Eat Travel Love: We believe that the market is still big and we will continue providing lifestyle content to our audiences. 

Wrapping it all up

Through the e-interview sessions, most publishers noticed an increase in site traffic and engagement. The increase in the online audience demonstrates how crucial it is for brands to have a strong online presence in times like this. 

With fewer people outside and more people staying in, adding on to the uncertainty of how long this crisis will last, it is perhaps the time for brands to make use of the benefits of digital advertising by approaching and staying connected with their consumers digitally.

Reach out to us at to be part of our publisher network!

Sarah Enxhi, co-founder and Managing Director of GRVTY Media Malaysia. Vulcan Post is a digital publication under GRVTY Media that updates people on the latest social media news and digital innovations.
Jo Yau is the Chief Marketing Officer in Ringgitplus. Ringgitplus is a well-known financial comparison website that also provides information allowing people to make wiser financial decisions.
Marcus Goh, CEO of Eat Travel Love. Eat Travel Love provides the latest travel, dining, and restaurant updates, news, recommendations, and reviews.
Ahmad Aizuddin b. Harum is the Chief Operating Officer for Siakap Keli. Siakap Keli is a Malay and English based online portal that shares the latest Malaysian news, updates and articles.
Petrina Goh is the CEO of Nuren Group. Motherhood, an online parenting marketplace, and community and content site under Nuren Group covers guides, tips, and product reviews helping couples through their parenting journey.