It’s entirely possible that your digital publication’s readers are overwhelmed by the volume of news published about the coronavirus crisis. This is to be expected. The number of readers searching for news is four times higher for virus-related stories than other topics, and with developments exponentially increasing in frequency and complexity, who could blame your most loyal readers for feeling overwhelmed by what you publish, let alone everybody else?

News publishers have a duty to cover the crisis at every turn. They may be interested to know that non-Corona related news is still very important. If you offer well-researched, unbiased coverage, then master this balance to ensure yours is a news source prioritised by many. Here’s how and why publishers can master that balance.

Coronavirus news read rate compared to regular content

A study of data from 31 European publishers conducted by What’s New In Publishing revealed that almost 80% of daily readers consume coronavirus-related and non-coronavirus content pretty much equally. It’s not just a marginal trend, either, as the above graph illustrates.

Remarkably, it even illustrates that readers who indicated even a slight divergence from this equilibrium are a fairly significant minority. Those who read over five more coronavirus-related stories than other content barely registered, even when the pandemic was at its most lethal. This is especially noteworthy when we consider that WNIP’s accumulated data set comprised 1.5 billion article reads, due to the sample size.

We advise publishers to hone and refine their recommendations to other stories and their ‘Read this next’ links. These figures imply fatigue after reading coronavirus-related stories, so make sure that unrelated news is easily available to your readers, experiment with the balance, discover what works best and optimise. Readers will return if they associate your site with an experience that while informative, didn’t overwhelm.

With such high numbers of readers finding news through search, it is going to be a battle to make them valuable. As much as making the aforementioned adjustments will up the likelihood of a reader’s return, it can’t guarantee it, not with all the competition from other publishers’ coronavirus coverage.

The amount of readers reading virus-related stories found through direct traffic (links from WhatsApp, email newsletters, etc.) is still four times higher than those reading unrelated content. 

Graph of how readers discover coronavirus news

As you can see, internal referrals are lower too. Collectively, these results indicate that readers want material on everything relevant from any source, if it gives them the answer they need. They don’t seem to be sticking with publications because they trust the brand, rather, spreading their search across many to accelerate the retrieval of important information. With that in mind, now may be a good time to assemble a live blog or similar sort of directory, if you’ve got the content to make it worth a reader’s time. What we can take from this is that news publishers perform best when they focus on their audience’s behaviour and their brand identity.