When Ukraine’s president toured the devastated town of Bucha on April 4, the VOA Kurdish service Facebook video of the tour and town attracted seven million video views.
The posting in Kurdish is one example of the global hunger for information on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Audiences are flocking to Voice of America news sites across East and South Asia, Latin America, Africa as well as in Ukraine and Russia.
“The invasion of Ukraine is one of those rare news events that resonates across languages and cultures,” said Matthew Baise, VOA Director of Digital Strategy and Audience Development. “Not only is it drawing high traffic from Russian and Ukrainian audiences, but it is also producing significant interest in places that typically do not follow news about Russia.”
Ukrainian audiences would be expected, as would be large spikes in their site and social media visits as the war began, even as the cities were under attack and electricity and WiFi not always reliable. The number visits to VOA Ukrainian’s website nearly doubled from late February to early April, while the number of social media video views in Ukrainian nearly tripled, topping 21 million in the same time period.
VOA Russian’s site and social media accounts set new records in the early days of the invasion and have remained above historic levels after the Russian government began blocking GolosAmerki.com and its social media platforms. Audiences in Russian more than tripled in the first five weeks of the war.
Even more remarkable were the number of news consumers reading VOA stories in the network’s other 45 languages.
“The war in Ukraine is a global story that is capturing the attention of our audience all around the world,” said Acting VOA Director Yolanda López. “And VOA is uniquely positioned to tell this story to people, in their own languages.”
Readers accessed web stories about the Ukraine war more than 21 million times across VOA language sites in a five week time period. Across VOA’s social media accounts, there were more than 809 million video views of Ukraine-related content, with tens of millions audience interactions, a key measure of engagement with news content .
“Not since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has a story generated so much broad interest across VOA's 47 languages. Audiences in Vietnam, Myanmar, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, China, and Latin America have generated hundreds of millions of video views on social platforms,” said Baise.
There are these examples of audience numbers: more than 58 million video views on VOA’s Vietnamese social accounts, 43 million video views for the VOA Burmese accounts, and 37 million on VOA Urdu platforms.
The English language website, VOANews.com, also attracted large audiences to VOA’s original journalism on Ukraine. The article “Is This the Start of World War III or Cold War II?” posted during the Russian army’s initial advance toward Kyiv garnered 180,000 views alone. On English language social media, a correspondent’s report on the Bucha tour brought in 157,000 video views and more than one thousand comments.
“When crises arise, whether it’s a coup in Myanmar or the global COVID-19 pandemic or people in Hong Kong resisting China’s clampdown, audiences consistently turn to VOA’s unbiased and comprehensive reporting,” said López.
VOA language services often brought the story closer to home for their audiences. For example: A Ukrainian woman living in Guatemala galvanized online support for her country; independent civil society organizations in Vietnam condemned Russia in a position at odds with the country’s government; and, hundreds of Afghans who fled the Taliban takeover ended up stranded in the midst of the Ukraine war.
As the war continues, VOA coverage and journalists across language services are continuing to attract larger than usual audiences to the digital platforms of VOA’s 47 language services.