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“Some media grew their loyal readership between 10 and 15 times”: Coronavirus’ massive impact on traffic volume and reader loyalty

What's New in Publishing 17 Apr 2020 08:30

Just a couple of months ago we were not aware that COVID-19 existed. It took only a matter of weeks for the novel coronavirus to make its way from Asia and spread across the world, changing every segment of our lives along the way. 

Now, it’s shaking the very foundations of modern society and claiming tens of thousands of lives. Europe has become its epicenter. And, writing this from the heart of Europe – where the curfews and tight measures are particularly strict – the disconcerting sight of empty streets means we feel the effects particularly keenly.

Such are the restrictions placed on people by lockdowns, that the only places buzzing with more people than usual are online news outlets.

The pandemic has created a hunger for information that we rarely see, and we are all aware of that.

At Content Insights we were interested to find out how strong that hunger is. To research this, we’ve been looking mostly at European publishers. The data we acquired relates to February and March – the time Europe became the world’s coronavirus hotspot. 

The Article Read metric is not the same as a Page-view as it tells you how many times someone actually started reading your content. In order for us to calculate the Article Read a real person has to spend at least 10 seconds reading it. 

In terms of the number of reads, in the first period, these topics recorded almost 50 million Article Reads, while in the second period that number is 10 times higher with over 500 million Article Reads. Undoubtedly, this shows people were looking for information on coronavirus on a whole new level. But one thing that might have significantly influenced the amount of traffic to these stories was the fact that many – if not most – publishers are dropping their paywalls on coronavirus articles. 

In the first period we recorded an average Attention Time on a story about coronavirus of 52 seconds, a Read Depth of 40.9% on average, and a Page Depth of 1.69 pages on average during a single reading session.  Those metrics didn’t change a lot in the second timeframe we looked at: Attention time decreased to 51 seconds, Read Depth decreased at 40.8%, but Page Depth grew to 1.73 pages.

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