Credit: Screenshots via The Quint

Rishi Sunak made history when he became the first non-white British Prime Minister on 24 October 2022. News organisations everywhere had to decide how they covered this event.

It was of particular interest to The Quint, an Indian, digital-first news outlet reporting in English. Since launching in 2015, the news website has strived to be the go-to platform for Indian news stories from around the world.

It nets around 15 million monthly unique visitors to the site and has built two core audiences: domestic Indians and the diaspora around the world. For context, just over half of its readers are from India's top 10 metro cities. The news website is so conscious about being globally relevant, a different version of the site will come up depending on your IP.

The common interest across all of its demographics is "Indian pride", according to Ahamad Fuwad, the head of department at The Quint's world desk. This means stories about Indians or people of Indian heritage succeeding in other countries. It is easy to see why its audience would be interested in a British-Indian landing the top job in a country that had once colonised India. And there would be mixed feelings about the news.

The team has been tracking Sunak's political rise ever since he became the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020. Its archive of coverage started to swell around his Indian heritage, his marriage to multi-millionaire Indian businesswoman Akshata Murthy and the Conservative leadership race against former Prime Minister Liz Truss.

One news video did particularly well. It was dubbed Rishi Sunak's 'I Told You So moment', predicting the UK's economic collapse under the tax changes proposed by Liz Truss and then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. It helped they published the video the same day Kwarteng was sacked.

"We didn't want to let that traction go," says Fuwad. "Our conversation [internally] was that we had found a good audience from the UK, so we had to turn them into loyal readers."

Reportage versus reposting

For coverage around Sunak's first week in the big job, The Quint had to be resourceful and quick about publishing content. Fuwad leads a small team of just three, but he pulled in extra hands from other desks.

That week his team published 27 new stories, a mixture of original reporting, relevant listicles, various op-eds, Sunak's first address to the nation, timelines and fact-checks (under its popular and recognised initiative called WebQoof). But their archive also helped, as they updated and reposted four articles.

Total Sunak coverage brought in 1m page views: 70 per cent of which being domestic Indians and 22 per cent readers from the UK, US and Canada (its biggest diaspora regions). The UK alone accounts for six per cent of the audience.

Reposting older articles can be hit and miss. When The Quint republished pieces from The Conversation they did not perform well. But a repost of Sunak's family history was the most-read story, with the update increasing its view count by 50 per cent. The upside of reposts is that all the necessary information is in the public domain and easily verified. It is a safe bet for increasing traffic.

Important stories on the other hand tend to be less reliable for bringing in traffic, but no less important from an editorial perspective. They are also more demanding to produce. Fuwad said good coverage on a big news event like Sunak needs an even helping of both. For that reason, he prefers to consider how well the topic itself performs, rather than individual stories.

Comment stories can be a quicker option, but overall there should be a balance of perspectives on offer. Commentators ranged from a former BBC India correspondent providing an English perspective, to comedian Trevor Noah, providing an opinion from another ex-British colony in South Africa.

High page views do not necessarily translate to user satisfaction and effective news writing. The Quint is currently developing an analytics tool to track user behaviour more closely, especially on user loyalty and clickthrough metrics.

It is also training staff to write more effective opening story ledes, recognising that in the swathes of content on the internet, they must make their brand immediately distinctive, relevant and appealing.

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