Update on coronavirus-driven subscriptions, traffic

By Grzegorz Piechota


Oxford, United Kingdom


The peak of the COVID-19 bump has passed for news media companies, but digital sales are still higher than before the pandemic. 

Two weeks ago, sales of online subscriptions slowed down in both Europe and in the United States. Last week they were up 101% and 69%, respectively, compared to the pre-crisis period.

“Given that the bump started mid-March in the U.S., April may well still turn out to be a better month than March in the U.S. for subscriptions,” said Patrick Appel, director of research at Piano, a digital business platform vendor. 

In collaboration with Piano, INMA has tracked the bump on a weekly basis since mid-March. The benchmarks are based on the transactional data of 295 paywalled news sites across the world. 

Feeding that traffic, of course, is COVID-19 content. The interest in content related to the pandemic has flattened and still generates one-third of engagement. After sudden drops in interest in the COVID-19 coverage at the end of March, online traffic stabilised during early April, Chartbeat data showed.

Pageviews and total engagement time stayed relatively flat (-1%), and more importantly the proportion of page views and time spent on COVID-19 articles were flat as well: 27% and 29%, respectively.

Search traffic increased by 18% week over week thanks to the queries about health of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and unemployment benefits.

In terms of total traffic, as Lauryn Warnick of Chartbeat reported to INMA, Twitter surpassed Goggle Chrome Suggestions to become the 4th largest external source of traffic after Google Search, Facebook, and Google News. 

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