Brazilian newspapers launch creative products to help readers deal with the isolation caused by the coronavirus

As the isolation caused by the coronavirus alters people’s social habits, newspapers in Brazil have invested in alternatives to the news to engage readers.

Festival FicaEmCasa.CE

Festival FicaEmCasa.CE, from the newspaper O POVO, had online presentations by artists from Ceará, such as Waldonys and Eduardo holanda, Italo Ooeta and David Simplicio - shown in this photo with journalist Paula Lima. (Photo: Courtesy)

Between March 28 and 30, the newspaper O POVO, from Fortaleza, promoted a free online music festival with more than 20 artists from Ceará. The shows were broadcast on the artists' social networks, with special programming also on the newspaper's social networks. 

Daily, there were more than three hours of live music. From their own homes, the artists performed in front of a cell phone or camera, sharing the live video via streaming. Between one presentation and another, POVO journalists presented the next attraction and did a brief interview.

"The FicaemCasa.Ce (Stay Home) Festival is one of the ways in which Grupo O POVO helps the population face this very difficult, atypical, challenging social moment. Nobody is beyond the impact of this epidemic. And we can all help each other in some way," João Dummar Neto, vice-president of the O POVO Communication Group, told the Knight Center by email.

The initiative to promote an online music festival had already been taken by Rio newspaper O Globo, which brought together more than 30 artists between March 20 and 22. This first edition of the #tamojunto (we’re together) festival led to 1.5 million hits on the newspaper's social networks during the three-day event.

In addition, with the release of the first edition, other musicians came to the newspaper to say that they would also like to participate. The newspaper then decided to do a second edition, this time in four days, from March 26 to 29, with over 40 performances by Brazilian musicians.

“We need to isolate ourselves, but we don't have to feel alone. #We're together. All of us. So, stay home and go to the festival with us. After music, we have already studied other areas for the next few weeks,” Fátima Sá, editor of the cultural supplement Segundo Caderno, told O Globo.

Coronavirus coverage and new products boost audience

The newspaper A Gazeta, from Espírito Santo, recorded a 98 percent increase in its average audience, jumping to 6.8 million unique users in one month, with 19.8 million pageviews. The number is impressive because the outlet’s coverage is mainly concentrated in the state, which has 3.5 million inhabitants.

“A Gazeta's website has also been experiencing a significant increase in audience and, therefore, we decided to increase the launch of digital products in order to expand our content distribution at such a difficult and intense time,” editor-in-chief Elaine Silva told the Knight Center.

Among the novelties that go beyond coverage of the crisis is the creation of the section Fique Bem! (Stay Well), a new area on the website that brings together entertainment news, health tips, social life and inspiring stories in times of crisis.

POVO, from Ceará, changed its cultural section. With closed cinemas, canceled and prohibited shows, activities on the cultural calendar needed to be adapted. Thus, reporters from the Life & Art section began to highlight activities to be done at home, with tips from literature, films, series and online courses.

O Globo has done the same as its cultural section became known as Segundo em Quarentena (broadly, Culture in Time of Quarantine). The programming is geared towards the reader who is at home, with tips on what to watch on television and streaming services, even what's new in books, arts (in virtual collections) and music. The programming is supported by interviews, articles and a gastronomy space, with recipes and tips from chefs for those who are now cooking more at home.

Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, Globo saw a record audience in a month, with 235 million hits and 71 million visitors in March alone.

According to the National Newspaper Association (ANJ), the average audience of Brazilian newspapers' websites grew 40 percent between March 15 and 21, compared to the previous week. The data are part of an audit carried out by the Communications Auditor Institute (IVC).