Trusted news needs you: back don’t block British journalism

Tracy De Groose - Executive Chair, Newsworks

Today the media industry’s trade bodies have joined forces to help support trusted news brands during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.

This article is supported by the Advertising Association, Society of Editors, ISBA, IPA, AOP, IAB, NMA and Newsworks.

In an online world clouded by fake news and misinformation, the coronavirus crisis has seen a surge of new readers turning to trusted news brands and publications for the facts they can trust and rely on.

A recent global report recently conducted by Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 ‘Special Report: Trust and the Coronavirus’, found that 67% of Brits are “getting most of their information on the virus from major news organisations” well ahead of national government (34%) and social media (22%).

And, the release of the latest readership audience from PAMCo last week was further evidence of a longer growth trend towards trusted news environments. Over 34 million people a day now read a news brand – a rise of 3.2 million daily readers compared to a year ago. 

Yet worryingly, in parallel with journalists’ endeavours to keep readers informed, the word “coronavirus” is fast accelerating up advertiser blocklists, leaving swathes of news inventory redundant of much needed ad revenue.   

Despite this, editorial teams across the country have launched a series of new dynamic features and initiatives to deliver growing demand for up-to-the-minute information and advice as the severity of the virus spreads.

In addition to daily news reports and in-depth analysis, these include everything from daily podcasts, newsletters, Q&As, reader focused conference calls with senior journalists, special pull-outs, and campaigns focused on honouring the heroics of NHS staff. To ensure that people have access to news in isolation, many are now offering free home delivery for the next 12 weeks.

Last week, regional daily news brands joined forces by publishing the same front page and launching #ThereWithYou campaign, to reassure readers that their local title is there to support them in  these challenging times.

The creativity and dynamism of our newsrooms is astounding – our journalists are working harder than ever to ask the right questions and to deliver accurate information in the most helpful and accessible ways possible for their readers.

Yet the unintended consequence of blocking “coronavirus” is that news brands’ ability to generate advertising revenues are being penalised at a time when record audiences are relying on trusted news in brand safe journalistic environments.

A report by The Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore estimated that UK publishers missed out on an estimated £170million pounds last year due to ad blocking.

That’s about one in every five pounds of ad revenue lost, at a time when journalism is needed more now than ever before.  

We continue to work across the industry with the trade bodies, agencies and advertisers to help solve this issue but we need more urgency, because it really matters to legitimate news brands and publishers both large and small, mass market and niche.

An important pillar of our democracy is being compromised at a time when it is more important than ever. Readers are relying on us right now, and we are relying on advertisers to help ensure the public receive information and advice from the very best sources.

My appeal to advertisers is incredibly simple: please back, and don’t block British journalism by removing ‘coronavirus’ from your blocklists.


How national news brands are keeping the nation informed

The Daily Telegraph

On a daily basis, the news brand offers readers a ‘Global Health Bulletin’ and hosts new lunchtime Q&As and conference calls with newsroom experts. Every weekday, podcast enthusiasts can enjoy ‘Coronavirus: The Latest’ and there is also updates available via a Telegraph WhatsApp group.

This week, the focus has been on ‘Bringing Britain Together’ ensuring people pull together while staying apart. To encourage this social connectivity a new interactive platform, You Are Not Alone, has been launched, providing readers with a metaphorical space to gather, a place to debate and a forum to celebrate the very best of British ingenuity and grace under fire.

The Guardian

In addition to reports, Q&As and live blogs, the publisher’s popular Science Weekly podcast will operate an extra weekly episode about the latest coronavirus news, focused on offering insights and advice to listeners at home and abroad.

Explainers have also proved useful to readers. The first explainer published mid-January is still the second most-read individual story published on the website, shortly followed by the video explainer on The Guardian News YouTube channel.

Daily Mirror

The Daily Mirror provides readers with a daily Q&A, as well as a newly launched daily newsletter with the latest updates. Dr Miriam Stoppard provides health advice and daily charts explain the infections rates around the world visualising the global impact. 

For older readers, veteran Mirror reporter Paul Routledge is boosting morale and video explainers, while platforms such as TikTok help the Daily Mirror reach younger audiences. Other online initiatives include a Twitter call-out for reader questions to be answered by certified experts. 

Lastly, many Reach titles, including the Mirror, will be embedding widgets created by hyperlocal In Your Area platform which allow readers to get local information based on their postcode, for example, number of cases near you. 

Evening Standard

As people in the country’s capital work from home, the news brand has been publicising its app, which allows audiences to catch up with breaking news and view the full print edition on their phones or tablets. To keep people up to date with what is going on, its website has a whole coronavirus section with the latest news and a live blog.


Along with tips on self-isolating and explainers on how to check whether you are showing symptoms, the i is providing readers with a live blog on its website and posting continuous updates via its Twitter profile.

Keeping readers entertained during the coronavirus outbreak, editor Oly Duff writes about how the news brand will be making tweaks to the regular format by reducing the culture agenda and focusing on books, games and learning – requests welcome. Thursday’s i for example will feature a four-page games and crossword pull-out.

The Times

Editorially, the publisher is producing explainer pieces with the top questions people are searching for on Google; data visualisations of the spread in the UK; science editor Tom Whipple has in-depth stories on the race to find a vaccine or the impact on children; and T2 is providing advice how to work from home with your partner and diet and exercise plans.

Via dedicated coronavirus newsletters every morning a 7 am, readers are kept informed by the key stories at home and abroad and what it means to their families.

On audio and already number one on the Apple podcast charts, The Times’ ‘Stories of our times’ podcast launched on Monday focusing on the coronavirus.

The Sun

Online, the news brand has dedicated a whole section to coronavirus which features a live blog and stories from editorial teams such as tech, showbiz and sport. In print, the classic page three has been transformed into what the PM has asked Brits and today’s (Wed 18 March) pullout   .

Sending best wishes to NHS heroes, the news brand has launched an ‘I <3 NHS’ campaign encouraging to send their love, thanks and gratitude to [email protected].

The Independent

The digital news brand is providing readers with a live blog and continuous updates via its Twitter feed. On its website, the ‘Indy/Life’ section provides information on helping the elderly, the importance of handwashing and supermarket rationing. Finding it hard to find something to watch on TV? Check out 39 hidden gems to stream while self-isolating.

Daily Star

The paper’s top stories cover the coronavirus and the impact it is having on the different parts of society. To keep people who are at home entertained, today’s (Wed 18 March) edition of the newspaper includes a massive puzzle pull-out.

Daily Express

The Express, as with the other Reach nationals, have just joined the newspaper delivery service offering readers 12 weeks free delivery, as well as alternative options such as the app and tablet edition. There is also a dedicated section on the website featuring everything from data visualisations of the outbreak to live footage of supermarket hoarding

In the paper, they’re going beyond the essential medical info and ensuring that their readers keep their morale up - printing reader stories of community spirit, random acts of kindness, and simple tips for getting through the crisis. They’ve also upped the size of their puzzle pull-out section to 8 pages to keep readers engaged.

Written by

Tracy De Groose

Executive Chair, Newsworks


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