Telegraph adapts pandemic coverage with “You Are Not Alone” initiatives

By Beth Ashton

The Telegraph

London, England

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When big news breaks at The Telegraph, we are pretty confident in our ability to serve our audience with the type of quality news that they expect from us. So, when the pandemic began, we reacted with live blogs, breaking news updates, daily newsletters, and an interactive live tracker for our audience to track the spread of the virus in real-time. 

As things progressed, it became clear that we had a core audience of people who were alone, sheltering in place, and in many cases isolated from family and friends at this time and who would be severely affected by the lockdown. 

On March 17, we launched “You Are Not Alone,” a reimagining of our features, lifestyle, and sports sections aimed at our core readership, where they could read and share advice, speak to our journalists, and stay occupied in self-isolation. We aimed to be there for them — wherever and however they needed us. This meant adapting our journalism and delivering many new initiatives.

New sections were created to provide a space for content relevant to the pandemic.
New sections were created to provide a space for content relevant to the pandemic.

Re-thinking the reader experience

Our digital hub provided a collection of initiatives and supportive stories to showcase community spirit, offer our readers the best advice, and share tips for coping. It also acted as a space for readers and journalists to gather and share expertise while coronavirus prevented us from meeting in person. This dedicated page was home to features, advice, recipes, long reads, podcasts, and original documentaries.

You Are Not Alone invited our readers into the newsroom (virtually) and aimed to bring them together and closer to our experts. We ran daily Q&As with expert reporters on the latest news, daily Web chats with lifestyle writers, regular film and theatre virtual watch-alongs with our arts critics, live cook-alongs and wine-tasting with food critics, beauty tutorials, and much more.

We launched two new newsletters: You Are Not Alone, which had a dedicated “community spirit” section and space for readers to tell their stories, and In Other News, for those who wanted a distraction from coronavirus. We also increased our newsletter activity with daily coronavirus updates and more regular editions of our puzzles, gardening, and cookbook newsletters to occupy readers in isolation.

We expanded You Are Not Alone across every possible platform, including a daily news and advice podcast Coronavirus — The Latest, which had more than 1 million plays in its first week alone.

A coronavirus podcast was among The Telegraph's most popular initiatives.
A coronavirus podcast was among The Telegraph's most popular initiatives.

On Snapchat, our Snap Show, So, you’re in a pandemic, had 3.5 million viewers across the first four episodes.

On WhatsApp, we sent daily updates including pictures, voice notes, and videos from our journalists, and we launched a dedicated Facebook group where our readers post links and talk to each other.

Our initiative Brave New World contained more than 50 articles highlighting how businesses were helping their local areas, and more than 1,000 people entered the Lockdown Awards, nominating and celebrating the unexpected heroes of the crisis.

The Lockdown Awards celebrated the true heroes of the pandemic.
The Lockdown Awards celebrated the true heroes of the pandemic.

 

Subscriptions skyrocket

We offered a free six-month subscription for all NHS staff, which was claimed by 16,000 people, and The Telegraph Charity appeal with Turn2Us, supporting those hit hardest by the crisis, raised more than £1.28m (US$1.66m). 

The coronavirus had a huge impact on our subscriptions. At their peak, subscriptions were up 400% compared with the beginning of the year. We’ve seen unprecedented demand for our journalism and engagement with many of the initiatives we’ve launched, from voting in our Lockdown Awards, to donations to our appeal.

Beyond the numbers, though, the response from our readers was overwhelmingly positive. One reader wrote to our Head of Newsletters Sarah Ebner to say: “For the second time I am writing to say what a great idea You Are Not Alone is. I look forward each day to see what people are doing to help during this tragic time. Thank you.”

About Beth Ashton

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