Just last year, mainstream media outlets were covering how Disney Parks “influencers” were making decent livings covering all things Disney on Instagram and YouTube.
Fast forward to 2020 and the mainstream media is talking about how many Instagram influencers may go extinct due to the coronavirus shutdown.
While this income crisis isn’t limited to just Disney influencers, for those who make a living talking about and visiting Disney theme parks, being unable to go to theme parks for an indefinite period of time is… not ideal, to say the least.
True, some sites and YouTube channels are now mining retrospectives, behind-the-scenes topics and of course, tracking the daily bad news coming out of the Mouse House.
But for audiences trained to look for fresh content about what’s new in the parks, will they stick around for “leftovers” or just move on to other things? Will they give up on planning that Disney vacation because of their own financial uncertainty?
The Money is Not There
But magic alone can’t keep the lights on. Money makes the world go ’round, and it’s quickly drying up for social media influencers and digital media. Advertisers are pulling back on ad spends to help better weather the storm, and media outlets are feeling the pinch.
According to the Business Insider, people are actually spending more time on social media during lockdown, but the ad revenue and sponsorship dollars are declining…
Influencers have seen their sponsorship deals shut down and events cancelled, with many shifting their focus to alternative revenue streams that allow them to continue to earn a living without leaving their homes.
Influencer-marketing agencies are seeing brands postpone campaigns while also observing that engagement on social-media posts is higher than normal as more consumers spend time in physical isolation.
I can personally attest that this is true.
While Pirates & Princesses is only a part-time income for us, we’ve seen a sharp dropoff in banner ad revenue over the past two months. Our own advertising network warned us a few weeks ago that we’d see a decline in ad revenue of up to 70%, and they weren’t kidding.
Travel Influencers are Especially Hard Hit
Being that our site is in the Travel vertical is a double whammy, as many travel-related businesses are fighting to survive and advertising might be the last thing they’re wanting to spend money on right now.
“I think a lot of people in the travel industry are holding their breath,” said travel blogger Oneika Raymond, who has 84,900 Instagram followers. “Companies are reluctant to take on anything new and therefore that is impacting the income of creators.”
Again, though, PNP is a part-time income for us. We have other revenue streams not dependent on travel, and can hang tight until things pick up again (whenever that is.)
Other “influencers” may not be so lucky.
In fact, a recent Vanity Fair article suggested that Instagram “influencers” were already wearing out their welcome…
Even before the coronavirus crisis, there were some signs that the format was fraying around the edges. The very word “influencer” suggests that they have the ability to sway people, despite said people’s best efforts. The best in game are able to suggest products through sponsored posts, thanks to their perceived “authenticity,” a word that means “real,” but in this context means presenting a genuine-feeling personality on the feed. The more authentic, the more highly compensated, the more followers probably wonder what these people are actually like.
Basically, people are starting to figure out that personalities on the take for a particular company probably aren’t going to be 100% genuine. This is as true of Disney as any other brand.
And the backlash has been severe when Influencers desperate for fresh content have been called out for being “tone deaf” during the pandemic.
Disney will look different on The Other Side, and Mickey might be too broke to pay for influencers.
We all know the story. People fall in love with Walt Disney World and start a blog or YouTube channel. It starts to take off and the next thing you know, they’re packing up their bags and moving to Orlando to cover theme parks for a living.
Dream achieved, right?
But now there are no theme parks open. And we don’t know how long until they re-open. And even when they do re-open, things won’t look the same on the other side.
Disney is trying to prepare people.
Everyone is focused on temperature checks, lower capacity and closed or partially closed attractions.
But Disney is literally fighting for its life right now. And if you really listen to what Bob Iger is saying, it sounds like there will be major cutbacks going forward.
From The New York Times…
Mr. Iger also sees this as a moment, he has told associates, to look across the business and permanently change how it operates. He’s told them that he anticipates ending expensive old-school television practices like advertising upfronts and producing pilots for programs that may never air. Disney is also likely to reopen with less office space. He’s also told two people that he anticipated the company having fewer employees.
In the past few years, Disney has spent a lot of money wining and dining social media influencers (including yours truly for another blog I started… even though they pulled my name off all of my articles. Long story.)
I think this practice might end or be severely cut back as the company scrambles to put the pieces back together.
Courting social media influencers with expensive “exclusive access” events might not be a priority going forward.
In fact, I think you can count on that changing… at least for the immediate future.
Things will go back to normal for Guests eventually, but the Disney Influencer bubble might have popped.
I do believe that things will go back to “normal” at Disney Parks, even if it takes a few years.
However, I do think the influencer bubble might burst because many people simply will have to find another career path as covering Disney parks as a full-time job simply isn’t viable right now.
I mean, if your “day job” is to visit theme parks and livestream, what do you do? How many retrospectives can you realistically do before you wind up sounding like a broken record?
Again, this is all speculation. But as someone who used to literally cover Disney for a living, I am incredibly thankful I don’t rely on that as my primary income right now.
Others aren’t going to be as fortunate, and I’m sorry. I really am.
[Sources: Business Insider, NY Times, Vanity Fair]
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.