It is increasingly apparent that Covid-19 is like nothing we have seen before. The breadth, impact and longevity of this pandemic is having widespread effects across the nation and world, and for publishing these effects are deeply impactful. News and information are a source of comfort, help and a basis for decisions, making access an imperative for every individual. Coupled with the current techniques used to combat this illness like social distancing, quarantines, lockdowns and more, online news has seen massive spikes in traffic across multiple sites and days. We looked at the data from 3 of our newspaper customers to shed some light on reader behavior1.

What Do We Mean by Massive?

One of our largest customers saw over 1 million new visitors in a day, which is more than 3x their usual average. Starting around the March 1st time frame, when the reality of Covid-19 reaching and spreading in the US solidified, so did American’s interest. Another of our largest newspapers saw a nearly 200% increase in new users and a 163% increase in returning users averaged over the month of March. Not only does this show an overall increase in interest, but for papers who are providing the right info, their readers are returning. For publishers that maintain quality, regular content these spikes aren’t a onetime occurrence they are a show of trust and need as we make our way through this pandemic.

Spikes Happen All the Time, Prolonged Spikes Don’t

What makes this truly unprecedented isn’t just how large the spikes are, but the number of times that we see these spikes. This isn’t the Oscars, or NBA Finals where we see 1-day spikes, nor is it a natural disaster like Hurricane Dorian last year which saw spikes for 3-5 days and then slowly tapered off during recovery efforts. Since the beginning of March, we have seen consistent daily, and multi-day spikes every week that average 2x-3x daily with peak spikes around mid to late March hitting 5-7x. That makes the response to this pandemic truly unique, as interest in the pandemic is so far holding level with the effects it has on our lives.

What Does this Mean for Publishers?

Trust. Trust is an underlying factor for where we go for our news. Yes, catchy headlines, party lines and big names play a part in where we seek out our news, but trust keeps readers coming back especially in times of uncertainty and challenge. For publishers, this is an opportunity to grow and solidify that trust with relevant, timely and consumable information. And for many of our publishers this has already taken shape in the form of loosening paywalls, specialized news delivery options like newsletters and replica editions and the doubling down on local content. With the growing number of people seeking news online double, triple and more what it was just 6 weeks ago, trust will serve as the basis for future reader-publisher relationships when we come out stronger on the other side of Covid-19.

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1Internal data from Naviga Discover Platform. April 10th, 2020.