Funke Media’s Coronavirus Monitor provides engagement breakthrough during the pandemic

By Marie-Louise Timcke

Funke Mediengruppe/Funke Zentralredaktion/Funke Interaktiv

Berlin, Germany


In the first days of the pandemic, the interactive team of Funke Media Group launched the Coronavirus Monitor on its news Web sites as a minimal viable product. In subsequent weeks, the app became one of the main coronavirus information sources in Germany — making Funke’s regional brands known beyond the existing readership as an excellent and fast source for current news. The number of new users and subscribers grew as a result.

The Coronavirus Monitor provided an interactive map that looked at cases locally, regionally, and globally.
The Coronavirus Monitor provided an interactive map that looked at cases locally, regionally, and globally.

Since March 2020, Funke Media’s Coronavirus Monitor has provided answers to the questions surrounding the pandemic with the latest figures in an easy-to-use tool. How has the coronavirus spread in Germany, Europe, and the world? When does the curve level off again? How far have we come with vaccinations?

Readers can track current developments on an interactive map and dashboard with separate views for Germany, Europe, and the world.

With numerous features on the development of new infections, deaths, and vaccination progress, the Coronavirus Monitor offers orientation in the midst of the pandemic. It functions as a landing page with the most important information at a glance and prominent links to further details and satellite projects — whether the ICU Monitor on the utilisation of intensive care units, an analysis of excess mortality, the news blog, the regional and national newsletters, or the Vaccination Monitor.

A new source of information

Since the virus gained a foothold in Germany, the Coronavirus Monitor has been the fixed source of information for millions of people in Germany and is constantly being adapted to new information needs by the interactive team.

From the beginning, we designed the monitor as a modular dashboard to be able to react quickly to new data and information needs. Less than a week passed from the idea to the launch of the minimal viable product — an interactive world map with bubbles showing the number of known cases, recovered cases, and deaths per country, and German federal state as well as a dashboard showing the total figures for Germany, Europe, and worldwide.

The monitor consists of hand-knitted, reusable React.JS components and is supplied with the latest figures on coronavirus cases, vaccinations, or hospital utilisation via a constantly evolving backend system. The monitor is maintained, optimised, and further developed around the clock by the interactive team. So instead of having to search for the latest articles or applications relating to the coronavirus crisis, users have been able to rest assured for over a year now that all the latest relevant information has been compiled in the Coronavirus Monitor.

All the known numbers, all the new metrics, all the news, plus exciting new features and graphical elements on a regular basis: The Coronavirus Monitor has become the first port of call for many people during the pandemic.

Gaining public trust

This is reflected in the media groups KPIs. With well over 300 million visits in 2020 alone (400 million including the satellite projects Vaccination Monitor, ICU Monitor, etc.), it is probably one of the most popular coronavirus resources in Germany and by far the most successful article in the history of Funke Media Group.

Berliner Morgenpost, one of our regional brands, increased its unique users by 680% compared to the previous year in March 2020, making the Monitor a major success in increasing brand awareness. According to an internal analysis, the Monitor also contributed significantly to the success in subscribing to Funke Media’s newsletters and bringing user traffic to the news blogs, as well as to new subscriptions through referrals to other offerings of the brands.

The embedded dashboard teaser for the Coronavirus Monitor, ICU Monitor, and Vaccination Monitor provides information at a glance.
The embedded dashboard teaser for the Coronavirus Monitor, ICU Monitor, and Vaccination Monitor provides information at a glance.

The main goal of the service was and still is to give people the best overview of all known figures and information at any given time in the dynamic situation of the pandemic — thus becoming the coronavirus information app for Germany. This requires good planning; for example, we were able to go live with a map showing areas affected by an amendment to the Infection Act just minutes after it was passed by the German parliament.

Achieving this goal, however, has had a strong side effect: The Monitor made the group’s various regional brands known beyond their already existing readership as excellent and fast sources of current news and information. Forwarding the regular, large user streams to other offerings led to high newsletter sign-ups and subscriptions. And last but not least, advertising revenue from placements on the dashboard itself was also very profitable.

This project shows what a small, dedicated, and well-organised team can do, even when circumstances are unfavorable (e.g. spontaneous home office) and variables are constantly changing (e.g. data sources and information needs). It also showed us what an impact it can have to quickly publish a well-designed, minimal viable product with the main focus to be simple and clear, and then develop it further and further in the days to come, making it clear to users through the regular updates matching their new needs that they did not have to go in search of a new source of information.

This approach fostered strong user engagement and led to long-lasting, stable success in terms of daily traffic, sustained brand awareness, and subscriptions. Although the Monitor was and still is freely available, it contributes immensely and, most importantly, consistently to the completion of subscriptions and newsletter sign-ups.

About Marie-Louise Timcke

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