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Sept. 29, 2015, 12:01 p.m.
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LINK: www.cruxnow.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   September 29, 2015

The pope’s visit to the United States dominated the U.S. news cycle for days, but it was especially important for Crux, The Boston Globe’s Catholic news site. During the nine-day visit, all three of Crux’s reporters were on the ground following Pope Francis.

Crux’s livestream of the visit was particularly popular; the livestream page, which included Vatican video, a video player providing translation, and Crux reporters’ tweets, drew more traffic than Crux’s homepage three days in a row. “People who are stuck at work without access to TV rely on us,” Crux editor Teresa Hanafin said. “We rely on people slacking off at work.”

Crux, which launched in 2014, is the Globe’s second standalone news vertical. The first, BetaBoston, covers tech news. The third, Stat, which covers healthcare news and the life sciences, is launching soon.

John L. Allen, Jr., Crux’s associate editor, was a member of the press on the papal plane. Inés San Martín, the site’s Vatican correspondent, followed the pope in Cuba, then flew to Philadelphia to translate for Allen and for Crux’s national reporter, Michael O’Loughlin. One of her jobs was to listen for the times when the pope went off-script, which he often does; because she speaks the same Argentinian dialect of Spanish that the pope does, she was “unbelievably valuable,” Hanafin said.

Hanafin edited from Boston and mixed up her reporters’ coverage with syndicated content from the Associated Press, Religion News Service, and Catholic News Service. The Globe’s design team created interactive maps, and Crux also prepared quizzes ahead of time. “When you cover the pope, there are so many serious issues that he talks about — you have to temper that with some lighter fare,” Hanafin said.

Overall, “Francis was very good for Crux,” Hanafin said. Half the site’s September traffic came during the nine days that the pope was visiting, with pageviews up 162 percent and uniques up 203 percent over the same period in August. Crux’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers also both increased by five percent during the visit. (Hanafin wouldn’t give actual traffic numbers.) The next step: converting those visitors into loyal readers.

“You like to think that they came for the visit, liked what they saw and will stick around,” Hanafin said.

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