Live blogs dominate traffic in Coronavirus coverage, new research shows

Coronavirus stories are accounting for one third of all news articles consumed, new research has reported.

Analytics firm Chartbeat, which is used by publishers around the globe including Newsquest, the BBC and Reach plc in the UK, shows that the number of articles produced about the deadly pandemic rose from March 9 onwards.

Live blogs are generating the highest traffic levels for newsrooms, with 41% of page views to the top 50 Covid-19 articles being from live blogs, although these types of content are said to be under-performing on social media.

38% of Covid-19 articles get most of their traffic from social media, while articles with interactives and infographics are performing best in search.

Jill Nicholson, head of product education at Chartbeat, said: “These findings may sound familiar — they echo past trends we’ve seen across search and social channels during major events.

“When we previously analysed reader trends around 2016 U.S. Election and Brexit, we saw that search and social readers leaned towards certain content attributes. For example, breaking news and “only the facts” types of content saw more referrals via search. In contrast, content that conveyed more emotion, such as Brexit’s “regrets and anger about results” gathered more social momentum.”

121% more articles were being produced on March 18 — by which point the USA was increasing its response to the virus, and the UK was telling people to stay at home — than a week previously:

Covid-19 articles are also keeping people on pages for longer — with each article holding readers for an average of 40 seconds, compared to 35 seconds for non Covid stories.

According to Chartbeat’s data, Facebook is sending marginally more traffic to Covid-19 stories than search at the moment, although the growth trajectory from both is similar:

Away from the big two referrers — Google Search and Facebook — Chartbeat reported that Google News had seen the biggest lift in referrals, up to 40m a day from 15m at the start of January, while Google Chrome Suggestions has hit 25m a day, just ahead of Twitter.

Twitter has also seen growth, and pretty much all referrers spiked upwards from the weekend of March 14.

Jill added: “Getting readers to your site is not the issue right now, as our analysis shows. Rather, it’s maintaining a high level of engagement with those audiences over time (coronavirus content or not).”

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