Vox Media’s engagement platform Coral is rolling out a new Q&A tool for publishers to help them engage with audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tool allows Coral clients to host live discussions on their sites with experts and reporters.
The Financial Times, the Detroit Free Press and Columbia, SC newspaper The State have started hosting live discussions using the tool, which was designed before the spread of COVID-19.
This week, The Community Listening and Engagement Fund (CLEF) created the COVID-19 Response Fund to help local newsrooms keep readers informed. CLEF committed a portion of its $50,000 fund to support the new tool. Vox Media says the funding will help cover the costs of news organizations using it.
The Financial Times is hosting daily Q&As on topics related to COVID-19, including personal finance and youth unemployment, with outside experts and FT reporters.
“We think facilitating a space for readers to have direct access to our reporters and experts during such a confusing time is a public service,” stated Lilah Raptopoulos, US head of audience engagement at Financial Times.
The Coral tool is “intuitive for our reporters and commenters to use without much instruction. It makes for an excellent user experience for readers. The way it’s built encourages a very high caliber of comments. This tool has come at the perfect time,” she added.
In March, The State hosted a live Q&A with Columbia’s Mayor Steve Benjamin, to answer questions on the community’s stay-at-home order.
The State published an article on its site, inviting questions from its audience. Coral's Q&A tool was set to “pre-moderate all questions,” and some readers submitted questions in advance.
Mayor Benjamin opened the article and answered questions, marked with a badge. Readers could also vote on the next questions he should answer.
The State’s journalists could also chime in to add more context to Mayor Benjamin’s answers, such as an excerpt from the statute he was referencing.
“We’re always looking for new and better ways for journalists to serve their communities… away from the toxic practices of social media,” stated Andrew Losowsky, head of Coral at VoxMedia.
Coral is used by over 140 newsrooms in 18 countries, including Mother Jones, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.