Tracking the Coronavirus: Daily Informative Text Alerts to Long Islanders
2021 Winner

Tracking the Coronavirus: Daily Informative Text Alerts to Long Islanders

Newsday Media Group

Melville, United States

Category Readership and Engagement

Overview of this campaign

The main goal was to provide important news and information about the coronavirus pandemic to Long Islanders in a more convenient and personal way — particularly because news about the virus was changing so rapidly. 

We wanted to experiment with tone, timing and the content of our text messages to Long Islanders. We also wanted to try to expand our reach to people in the coverage area who might not have been Newsday readers before and weren’t already interacting with our website, app or social media products. 

Through texts we also hoped to directly connect with Long Islanders and break down the barrier between reader and journalist. We wanted to give our audience an easy way to ask us questions and share tips and story ideas. And we also wanted to give the newsroom a way to hear directly from the community at a time when we weren’t able to have in-person contact.

By building ties with a new, growing audience, we hoped to show them they can rely on Newsday for trustworthy information. Ultimately, we hope to gain more paid subscribers so we can continue serving this group during and beyond the pandemic. 

Results for this campaign

After experimenting, studying metrics and listening to our audience, we rapidly evolved our texts.

We found a personal and direct tone works best, as if we’re texting a friend. We mixed in lifestyle and small business content and started sending more breaking news after noticing strong click through rates. 

We asked questions to inform reporting and find sources, yielding anywhere from dozens to 166 replies. After repeated requests for data, we started including daily case numbers and positivity rates. We worked with our newsroom to get common questions answered, used them to inform stories and even tried writing back individually when we knew the answer. And we even wrote articles based on tips, receiving replies back such as, “Thank you! This means so much to me.”

Our hospitals reporter helped us experiment with a “takeover". He sent a text asking if people had questions about the pandemic. We received more than 65 replies, so he spent the day talking to other reporters and providing answers. 

When we launched in May, we weren’t as focused on growing subscribers as on refining our texts and building engagement. In September we hit 1,000 subscribers and decided to focus on growth.

We shifted from using social media as promotion to including a sign-up link at the bottom of every coronavirus story. We added the link to our daily coronavirus newsletter, promoted it with videos -- including a webinar where Dr. Anthony Fauci answered questions -- and worked more with our marketing team.

As a result, we significantly grew subscribers:

Oct. to Nov.: 28% (1,435 to 1,838)

Nov. to Dec.: 32.9% (1,838 to 2,442)

Dec. to Jan.: 121% (2,442 to 5,400)

For the past month, we’ve been averaging around 100 new subscribers a day, with 455 on our biggest day. Even as our audience has expanded, our click-through rates have kept climbing, from 5-15% to now reaching 20-30% some days. 


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