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Could media consumption be permanently changed?

Adelaide Day-Collett
This is a post by Adelaide Day-Collett
April 8, 2020


Unemployment, underemployment and social isolation during Covid-19 has prompted a surge in media consumption, with audience appetite for content shifting on a weekly basis - from news updates to light-hearted TikTok videos providing relief from the doom and gloom. The trends we’re seeing in media have the potential to become permanent behavioural changes, so it is important for brands to take note.

Below we’ve summed up four key themes as we see them, with links to reference reports and data to help navigate these uncharted territories.

1. (Some) media channels are thriving during the Covid-19 lockdown.

- TV viewing across daytime is up 38 per cent and night-time audiences are more than 20 per cent higher across all demographics.

- Social media has seen a lift in eyeballs of 87 per cent since the social distancing measures were brought into force.

- Consumers are engaging with branded social media pages more than usual. A 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ads posts were reported over the last two weeks.  

2. News sites are doubling their traffic.

“Credible” new sites are seeing an increase in traffic as 59 per cent of Australians say the government is sending mixed messages on Covid-19.

- For example, Guardian Australia’s reach has more than doubled this month alone, with average daily unique readership up by 120 per cent to 2.2 million people, figures from Nielsen show. 

- 59 per cent of Australians are looking for updates at least a few times a day and 12 per cent are looking every couple of hours.

3. Whilst our appetite for more positive content is growing.

As weariness of Covid-19 news sets in, with 34 per cent of people feeling worse after reading Covid-19 updates, consumers are seeking positive content to improve their mental health.

- Engagement on the Short video platform TikTok has jumped by 27 per cent during March over February, says influencer agency ‘Obviously’. Videos with the hashtag “#coronavirus” are up 5.5 billion views on the platform. 

- Youtube is catering its content to those looking for a distraction with its Stay Home #WithMe initiative, providing curated playlists of baking, cleaning and work-outs, for example.

- Google Trends reports a spike in baking searches like ‘how to make pancakes’ and 'banana bread' searches, which have increased by 54 per cent worldwide in the last 30 days. 

4. But despite this increase in media consumption, paid advertising rates have dropped as marketers worry about brand safety.

Brands have pulled or reduced marketing budgets with 70 per cent of media buyers adjusting or pausing planned ad spend.

- Brands have stopped running ads on news outlets as they do not want to be associated with news coverage of the virus. British new sites experienced a 40 per cent decline in advertising on homepages during the first half of March.

- Reduced digital marketing budgets have led to a 30 per cent decrease in cost per clicks on Facebook across all sectors – notably the services and accommodation industries.

- Consequently, Facebook reports an increase in organic search since the start of year. This trend is expected to increase as brands look for less costly ways to engage audiences.

So what are the implications for the future?

While changes to media consumption have been largely reactionary, experts suggest Covid-19 has the potential to create permanent behavioural changes in the way we consume media, use channels and engage with content. We have three key takeaways to share:

1. Brands are likely to continue finding less costly ways to engage audiences to make every advertising dollar count

We would expect to see a shift in the focus of marketing efforts away from paid and towards organic media. This will re-emphasise the importance of building audiences and using content in a smart way.

2. Consumers will expect a new level of reactivity and savviness from brands, particularly on social channels.

Brands are having to reassess every possible touchpoint across paid and owned media because something that was decided two weeks ago may not be appropriate in today’s climate. It is likely consumers will expect brands to continue this standard of relevancy post-Covid. Therefore, brands will have to increasingly ask themselves ‘is this creative right for this moment and in this context?”

3. The old shibboleths around channel use may be shattered.

As work cultures have been forced to adapt to flexible WFH practices, we would expect to see less people commuting to work every day post-coronavirus – taking cars off the road and flattening rush hours across the country. And workers spending more time in a home environment will have implications on the media channels they consume, too. Brands should be rethinking the assumptions that have around use of media channels, and quickly.