Analyzing U.S. State Governments’ COVID-19 Homepages during the Initial Lockdown in March and April 2020: Information Content and Interactivity

Bo Yang, Yachao Li, Kun Yan, Yunjin Choi, Breeda Bennett-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

During times of a pandemic, government emergency response webpages are an important communication channel and if properly managed, will mitigate pandemic impacts. Guided by the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) framework and web interactivity literature, this study examined the information content and interactivity of U.S. state governments’ COVID-19 homepages when many states declared stay-at-home orders in March or April of 2020. Using a web archive service, we retrieved 48 state governments’ COVID-19 homepages. Three coders coded these pages for the presence or absence of information content on five dimensions (timely updates, sensemaking information, efficacy information, targeted guidance, and anti-stigma communication) and interactivity on four dimensions (accessibility, navigability, media richness, and engagement). Results revealed that a large proportion of state governments’ COVID-19 homepages provided timely information facilitating people’s understanding of the pandemic. Yet, there were some information gaps regarding how to cope with the pandemic or its related problems, such as mental stress and social discrimination. While many COVID-19 homepages allowed easy navigation, page engagement and accessibility seemed inadequate. U.S. state governments’ COVID-19 homepages could be a good source for sensemaking. Practitioners and researchers should explore how to better harness interactive Internet technologies and present information that fosters people’s efficacy to manage through the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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