La Voz de Galicia (LVG) faced the COVID-19 pandemic at a crucial moment in our strategy as a company. It was also a critical time for the industry in Spain.
When the disease began to devastate Spanish hospitals in mid-March, LVG had only a brief experience (only 11 months) in the field of paid content. Starting April 1, 2019, we had been one of the three pioneering regional groups using this reader revenue strategy. Subsequently, the two main national newspapers (El País and El Mundo) also adopted the strategy. As we expected for years, Spain was finally entering the era of reader revenue.
But the beginnings are always hard. And in our case, they have been especially hard.
The COVID-19 explosion put us in front of the mirror. What was our priority? To serve our Galician community, made up of hundreds of small hyperlocal communities? Or was it consolidating our budding reader revenue business?
Both things should not be contradictory; just the opposite. But among the Spanish news audience, charging for content was still frowned upon. This caused some competitors who had a paywall to withdraw it and others who had not yet launched one, to boast of their work as a public service in the face of the crisis.
What we did between March 13, 2020, and the end of April put everything into focus an earned a nomination for the Global INMA Awards in the category of “Best Initiative In Response to COVID-19.”
When INMA made the call public and we began to think about the application, my team understood the way to be successful was to describe a structured campaign. And that was exactly what we did not have.
In our first analysis, what we did to confront COVID-19 was far from being somewhat structured. To be honest — when in two or three days our lives changed forever and we had to organise ourselves so that 95% of journalists could work connected from their homes — we simply did what we could.
Galicia, the place in the world where almost all our journalists and other employees — and the vast majority of our readers — live, was not the main ground zero in the first weeks. For better and for worse, Galicia is on the periphery of the European periphery. But Inditex’s economic miracle (Zara’s headquarters are one block from us) places us at the centre of the globalised economy. And, therefore, A Coruña, where LVG is based, quickly became one of the Spanish metropolitan areas where COVID spread most rapidly.
We barely had time for creativity on those crazy days, much less for structured ideas.
But then we started to think in more detail. What goals did we have in early March? What had we accomplished six weeks later?
Oh, wait … maybe we had a campaign.
What we did can be found in our application with detailed figures, but I will summarise three simple ideas that marked our strategy:
- Support from day one to our distribution network of the printed edition. Despite the fact bars and restaurants were closed due to the alarm state, LVG have managed to maintain circulation and slightly increase sales, reaching 2,000 kiosks and 40,000 households every day.
- Maintain 100% employment, despite the dramatic drop in advertising revenue. This decision allowed us to keep distributing the best and most useful information, giving voice to experts and the people on the front line fighting the virus, through newsletters, push notifications, and printed weekly specials. All this, thanks to a dedicated full-time team of more than 100 journalists — over 40% of our total newsroom.
- Give hope, raise awareness of the need to comply with the rules, and offer entertainment tips to our audience, who have been confined to their homes for more than 50 days.
Earlier I referred to “what we did.” Well, I was wrong. I meant “what we have been doing and continue to do.”
All this intense work is what has allowed us to sustain our budding reader revenue business in the times of the coronavirus. Times that we will never forget when this is over.
Hopefully that will be soon.