How we secured audience growth during these troubled times

April 28, 2020
SCMP Insights
Interest in the South China Morning Post’s coronavirus coverage has seen it increase its total readership by more than 1,000 per cent compared with three years ago. 

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused global economic, political, and social disruption, it has also increased global engagement in the media.

Since the first news reports of the outbreak in January, traffic to the South China Morning Post’s coverage has continued to surge – increasing our total readership by more than 1,000 per cent compared with three years ago.

Our user engagement also has continued to reach new heights as the spread of the coronavirus disease, Covid-19, evolved into global pandemic and SCMP continued to publish breaking stories that were shared across leading global media publications: We’ve published thousands of articles covering varying aspects of the impact of the coronavirus on topics including society, politics, economies, regions, culture, food, lifestyle and sport. As a result, our international audience has continued to expand and now accounts for 95 per cent of SCMP’s traffic, with most of our readership coming from the United States.

Our US audience is primarily discovering our coronavirus content via search and social media, which makes the impact of SEO ever more important.

Thankfully, even before the virus took hold, an internal hackathon project brought together our technology, editorial, growth, data and marketing teams to build an automated keyword tagging tool.

We leveraged natural language processing to scan our content and extract or suggest SEO friendly keywords that were relevant to each article. 

Our team decided to codename this project “Nemo” because finding the right SEO keywords is often as challenging as searching for the eponymous fish in the Pixar film, Finding Nemo.

With relevance optimisation top of our thoughts, the outcome of project Nemo has materially improved meta-tagging, headline recommendations and article summaries to increase the opportunity for our content to be “discovered”.

Alongside the hackathon initiative, our audience growth team launched an internal campaign to “supercharge SEO” – training our colleagues to understand the power that a few carefully crafted words can have to expand our reach.

We are living in unprecedented times and the battle against this virus will leave permanent shifts in communications, connectedness and technology that have an impact on dozens of industries, including news media, for years to come.

Thanks to our investment in digital transformation over the past three years, SCMP is ideally positioned to continue to lead the global conversation on China, even in these difficult circumstances, and we look forward to partnering with you as we continue to evolve and grow.