Globe and Mail offers distractions during pandemic

By Katrina Bolak

The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


One key lesson that has been hammered home during this pandemic is the importance of timely and accurate information from a trusted source. At The Globe and Mail, our journalists have been working around the clock to cover the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians, our society, and our economy.

Like many media organisations, The Globe has seen record pageviews for its COVID-19 coverage. We also dropped our paywall for coronavirus news, believing it is part of our civic duty to make this information available to all readers.

In addition to coverage about the pandemic, The Globe and Mail is content related to wellness, reading, and other hobbies.
In addition to coverage about the pandemic, The Globe and Mail is content related to wellness, reading, and other hobbies.

We have also focused special attention on our subscribers to make sure they remain aware of all the ways The Globe can help them during the crisis, including informing them of how they can stay up to date on the evolving COVID-19 story through newsletters, updated explainer pieces, and our home page.

We also felt it important to push out positive content to readers’ inboxes as the weeks of home isolation extended indefinitely.

To test our subscribers’ interest in this content, we crafted a single e-mail featuring six articles suggesting things readers could do, try, or read at home.

The topics were:

For creative, we wanted to try fun and upbeat graphics, so we worked with our user experience team to design some colourful illustrations for each topic. 

The book list was our runaway hit (receiving close to double the clicks compared to the other topics covered). But overall, we saw high engagement within the e-mail with an impressive 23% click-to-open rate and the e-mail itself receiving an open rate of more than 40%.

With such a positive response, we decided to send it to another test group and saw the numbers continue to improve: a 45%+ open rate and 25% click-to-open rate. What we found striking about these numbers is that we did not target these e-mails based on behaviour or reading history; we picked a random sample to deploy to and saw engagement levels that would usually be seen from e-mails with more defined targeting.

With these results in hand, after three deployments to a test group of more than 80,000 subscribers, we felt we were on to something. We are now moving to a bi-weekly schedule for deployments.

Coverage of COVID-19 from every aspect is performing overwhelmingly strong on our site, reflecting the experience of many other publishers. Where we feel we are taking an extra step in supporting our readers is by rounding out what can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of difficult, breaking news information with ideas, tips, and hobbies for distraction.

We can all get through this difficult time together and perhaps pick up a green thumb, good read, or new recipe along the way.

About Katrina Bolak

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