The strange upside of COVID for media entrepreneurs

Despite the ongoing challenges facing the media industry because of COVID, founder of Honeycombers, Make It In Media and business coach Chris Edwards says now is the time to look for opportunities.

I am not going to lie, the past 18 months have been incredibly challenging in the lifestyle media landscape. As a bit of backstory – I am based in Australia, and own lifestyle media companies Honeycombers and HoneyKids and which operate in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bali (Indonesia).

My businesses rely heavily on arts, entertainment, hotels, restaurants and events – basically every industry that involves large numbers of people gathering together. When our advertising bookings plummeted by 77% in March 2020, I had that sinking feeling like I was on a turbulent flight. I had no idea what was ahead (did anyone?), but a wild ride is a pretty fair description.

The toughest months have to have been March through to June last year when I had no idea what support we were going to get from the Singapore government. My team reduced their hours for two months and I had to make redundancies in my events team. This was incredibly difficult, (and that is a huge understatement).

This year has mentally been more challenging for me, and I don’t think I am alone with that sentiment.

Not only is there the burnout, but we have also just had seven Singapore-based staff placed in mandatory ‘Quarantine Order’ because they had been in close contact with a COVID positive employee (in our office no less). Three of them actually were collected from their homes by government officials and taken to hotels to ensure their ‘quarantine’ was effective. The mental health toll of this ordeal was massive.

Source: Honeycombers

But whilst COVID has been incredibly painful, there has definitely been a silver lining.

I am finding the entrepreneurial challenge of reduced revenues strangely exciting and motivating. I have never been so engaged, and 110% committed to not only surviving, but thriving. I have been blown away with the strength of my team and the collective power of a strong leadership team.

The digital landscape is also changing – it is harder than ever to get that elusive pageview reach that used to be so easy. Seems every man and his dog (or rather every business and their marketing manager) has decided to focus on e-commerce and digital ads – meaning organic reach is far more challenging and CPCs have skyrocketed. This pushes your editorial team even harder to create editorial content that truly speaks to your audience.

COVID has meant that the competitor landscape is shifting. We have had competitors opportunistically approach us for acquisition, and this again is another strange upside – if we wanted to sell and exit – this was an option on the table.

Personally, I have really enjoyed being back at the helm, and the business is performing better than ever. We have had our highest traffic, our highest reader engagement and run our most profitable and successful marketing campaigns in the company’s history in the past 12 months. We have broadened our editorial strategy with a focus on key social issues and minority groups – which has brought more meaning to our team and to our wider community, again leading to higher engagement.

Finally – all the stress and sleepless nights has helped me justify the investment in a business coach (a first for me, and massively supported by my husband who has to listen to me all the time ‘rabbit on’ about my business challenges). After seeing the incredible value I gained from working with a coach on a weekly basis, I was persuaded by my client to set up a coaching programme for other media entrepreneurs, so my fourth media business was born: Make It In Media.

My advice for media entrepreneurs? Look for opportunities, use your entrepreneurial mindset, try to find the blue sky and lean on a business coach or community to support you through the uncertainty of today’s market conditions.

There have been some silver linings in that spiky pink dot – and I am grateful for the ‘levelling up’ that COVID has forced me to do.

Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards is the founder of Honeycombers, Make It In Media and business coach and mentor. 


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