In Apr 2021, we redid our Covid-19 Coverage. | Ritvvij Parrikh Humane ClubMade with Humane Club

In Apr 2021, we redid our Covid-19 Coverage.

Published May 17, 2022
Updated Dec 18, 2022

This post was originally published at next.timesofindia.com with Pooja Daswani.


When coronavirus hit us in early 2020, everything about it was unknown and in the twinkling of an eye, our lives turned upside down. Streets became empty. Offices shuttered. Hospitals were teeming with patients. In May 2020, The Times of India became the first news product in India to launch live dashboards to track the spread of Covid-19.

For the next few months, the state-wise, district-wise and international dashboards on TOI.com were updated every day. Our audience loved these dashboards and they became the backbone of our coverage. However, by March 2021, the situation had changed again. And once again we had to battle a new storm.


Data Reporting

Increased Focus on Trends: As is with any exponential growth system, the devastating second wave in India sneaked up on all of us. It became clear that we had to shift our data reporting from absolute numbers to moving averages so any daily inconsistencies in data would get smoothened out. Additionally, we had to double down on understanding the latest trends so we could report on the possibility of a third wave in different parts of the country as early as possible.

To present this data, we built Newscards.

Increased Focus on Vaccinations: We were also in a completely new stage of the pandemic. Mass vaccination was set to become a key response strategy going forward. To report effectively on how the various state governments were performing, we had to report on

  • Percentage of the population that was vaccinated
  • Rate of vaccination
  • Increase in rate of vaccination
  • Comparison with every other state and district

Take the Coronavirus Data to where the user is: So far any data related to Covid-19 was only on our dashboard. Now with the use of Newscards, we were able to integrate it into listing pages of 70 cities.


Story Discovery

Increased Focus on serving the audience: When the pandemic first hit, we treated it like a news cycle event and each team in The Times of India — TOI, Etimes, and TOI Plus — published their coverage of the virus independently. Later we realized that to help our audiences (It is always customer first at TOI!) navigate the pandemic better, it was critical that we break these silos and treat Coronavirus as a section and consolidate our coverage in one place. After all, it was indeed a common enemy…
Hence the team launched a new landing page — https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/coronavirus

Stories from across all sections were brought in here. The information architecture of the page introduced four new buckets:

  • What’s Happening”; News updated from various sections that catered to Latest News, Cases in India & World, Vaccination trackers, Live-Updates (Liveblog), and People affected- Business and economy.
  • “How to Stay Fit & Healthy”; Powered by the ETimes Health & Fitness, this section presented the user with photostories (rich-media storytelling format of TOI) around Health & Fitness, Nutrition & Food Diets for people suffering or recovering from Covid, how to boost immunity, etc.
  • “Explainers”; An amalgamation of stories from TOI, TOI+ & ETimes, as the name suggests, this section catered to Explaining in detail the most searched for information. It included articles on how the virus spreads, early symptoms, precautions, the difference between the virus variants, the difference between the vaccines, etc.
  • “Expert Speaks”; Views from Experts belonging to Health, Business, and all other industries affected by the virus. It included interviews and Q&A with doctors from various fields.

Commerce

Affiliates-Amazon Shopping: Effective user targeting is a must and to truly make this a one-stop-shop for all information we also added the Amazon shopping widgets that offered the Coronavirus Essentials like Masks, Oxymeters, Sanitizers, etc. The widget gave the users an easy in-house shopping experience upfront.


Evergreen Content

Seamless bridges between Breaking News and Evergreen Context:

Example
Bridge between LiveBlog and Factsheet
Nov 21, 2022

Since the start of the pandemic, The Times of India has been running a daily LiveBlog on Coronavirus. This is a wildly popular daily destination for our audiences.

However, LiveBlogs cover only the here and now. In the larger context, we introduced two slow-updating explainer Factsheets to place that here and now. One on the spread of Covid-19 and the other on India’s response to Covid-19.

With a simple click, audiences could jump from LiveBlog to the explainer and back. And they were happy that the news and its context were all well laid out.

Copied

Community Engagement

Donate Oxygen Initiative: As every one of our readers and the entire digital team bore direct or indirect consequences from the second wave, we realized we alone could help each other. We relied on our team to contribute to that scarce resource- “oxygen”. To this end, we launched the ‘Donate Oxygen’ initiative on TOI in partnership with “Give India”. As part of this campaign, our readers could redeem their TimesPoints to donate oxygen cylinders to the sick or needy (TimesPoints is our loyalty program that rewards readers each time they use a Times Internet product).


Impact

Performance of 3-month avg (Apr-Jun ‘21), compared to the previous period (3-month avg of Jan-Mar ‘21).

  • Users of Covid Content grew by 123%
  • Pageviews of Covid Content grew by 114%
  • Overall TOI’s DAU/MAU ratio increased by 5.6%

Monetization: Coviself, a Covid-19 rapid antigen self-test kit, supported all Covid-19 related Newscards across TOI. Durga Raghunath, the business head of TOI digital, said that audiences perceive traditional advertisement units as an inconvenience. They present a distracting user experience. Advertisements on Newscards gave audiences valuable information while serving brand needs.