By the end of April, Canada had experienced its first full month of the COVID-19 lockdown. Across the country, schools had closed, people were working from home or newly unemployed, and we were all grappling with what the future held.
The Globe and Mail had already become a mainstay in Canadians’ anxious search for accurate, reasonable, and up-to-date information regarding the pandemic. However, the need for hard news about infection rates, quarantine rules, and travel advisories soon progressed to more personal topics. Our readers wanted to know how to make the new normal more bearable.
The Zero Canada project was launched at the end of April with several goals.
- To give hope by helping our readers look toward the end of the pandemic and a day where there were zero new COVID-19 cases in Canada.
- To create an easy-to-access online resource hub to provide readers with helpful and actionable information and insights to help make staying at home a little easier, since maintaining the quarantine was our best chance at controlling infection spread. This includes stories to inform, such as how to help kids struggling with mental health in quarantine, to diversions including a popular puzzle section and baking tips.
- To connect Globe readers across the country with essential community services such as mental health support, educational resources, and food banks. Readers could both learn about the services they may need, or donate to our partner charities if they had the ability.
The Zero Canada online hub is structured into sections to make it simple to search. As well as explainers, it was created to give the most current overview of what we know about COVID-19. It also has areas related to employment questions, health and fitness, family life at home, and protecting your business and finances, as well as promotions for events such as our weekly call-in with experts discussing the pandemic.
Engagement with the Zero Canada section is higher than that of other Globe properties with readers spending five to seven times more time with its content, demonstrating how useful our readers find this one-stop hub.
The Globe offered our charitable partners free ad space on our print and digital platforms, and this has generated an impressive amount of support for Canadians in need. Community Food Centres Canada, which shifted their focus to emergency food relief during the pandemic, had a goal of C$3 million. Thanks in part to awareness through the Zero Canada project, the organisation has now raised more than C$29 million and helped more than 500,000 Canadians.
Another partner, CIBC Holidays for Heroes, sought nominations for frontline workers who would then be awarded travel vouchers for future holidays. The programme received more than 19,000 nominations, far exceeding their ongoing objectives.
For other media organisations considering a hub such as Zero Canada, here are some points to consider:
- What makes your platform unique? The Globe was already a trusted resource for COVID-19 information, particularly regarding business, and is home to some of the country’s top journalists, including renowned health columnist Andre Picard.
- What are your readers seeking? We knew from our traffic data that our readers wanted not only the hard facts, but practical content on navigating the “new normal’ as well as distraction and interaction.
- Do you have an ability to collect all your relevant data in one spot? Knowing that our readers are inundated with information, we wanted to make it as easy as possible to get all the information they needed.
- Do you have partners who can benefit from your support and who have clearly defined opportunities of support? Zero Canada is not a monetisation project for The Globe, but a way to play our part in getting Canada infection-free and fully reopened.
Although we have not yet reached the overarching goal of zero new COVID-19 cases in Canada, the support generated by Zero Canada project has been impressive, and we will continue promoting it until it’s no longer required.