Commentary

Coronavirus Fatigue Signals Need For Fresh Strategies

Readers are starting to lose interest in news about the coronavirus pandemic, a shift that has implications for the marketing strategies of publishers.
U.S. page views of articles about the COVID-19 pandemic plunged 41% during the second week of April from the prior seven-day period, while other topics showed gains, according to data measured by Taboola. The content-recommendation company tracks readership data from more than 1,000 publisher websites.
The sudden reversal came after a jump in readership as people sought more information about the coronavirus. State and local authorities ordered lockdowns, leaving housebound readers more reliant on digital connections to the outside world.
Still, web traffic is elevated compared with the days before the World Health Organization described COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11. The number of unique readers is up 8%, page views have risen 14% and people are spending 25% more time on web pages, according to Taboola.
The elevated traffic comes as many publishers remove their paywalls on stories about the coronavirus, letting readers see them for free as a vital public service. While we've discussed whether dropping paywalls was a strategic mistake for publishers, we've also seen signs that publications are converting those readers into paying subscribers.
That strategy is paying off for The New York Times, as CEO Mark Thompson described in an April 15 webinar with the International News Media Association (INMA).

“Giving new readers a chance to sample and understand the value of what you do in a time of great need is, in many ways in terms of marketing, pure gold," he said. "You really helped someone when they really wanted to know what was going on. You were there for them.”
As readers lose interest in coronavirus stories, publishers have a chance to showcase a broader variety of their content offerings that keep readers coming back after the pandemic subsides.

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