How media consumption has changed in the COVID-19 era

Do you remember the good ole days when you’d sit in your car during your morning commute, listening to the podcast or two that downloaded to your queue overnight? Maybe you were more of a terrestrial radio listener, clamoring to hear Second Date on 103.7 PLAY as you navigated through downtown Richmond.

Times have changed and so have our media consumption habits.

Media research groups are all over how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our listening and viewing habits. We’ve tried to synthesize the ever-changing data into a few themes.

We’re consuming more media

According to NuVoodoo, 85% of Americans have increased their media consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Economic Forum estimates that 80-90% of us are consuming an average of 24 hours a week listening and watching news and entertainment.

Comscore has lots of great COVID-19-specific data, but I couldn’t help but think about days growing up when we were stuck in the house. Reviewing data from its top markets, viewership at the 6 a.m. hour are up 10% year over year, and viewership rises hour by hour until noon (historically, viewership plateaus are 8 a.m. – you know, when people go to work). That means, more Jerry Springer, Price is Right and daytime soaps. If that isn’t a stay-at-home lineup, I’m not sure what is.

We’re (obviously) not leaving our homes

Speaking of staying at home, many states including Virginia are under shelter-in-place orders. That means, we’re not shopping in stores or dining in restaurants.

Wordstream, utilizing Google Ad insights, showed that in-store traffic is down 90% from February. Shelter-in-place orders have also affected how business and education are conducted. The New York Times published a great media consumption article which highlighted the exponential increase in use of platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams as a way to virtually bring us together.

We’re looking for distractions

Nielsen put out some research that called terrestrial radio a “comfort food” in COVID times, indicating that 83% of consumers are listening to as much or more radio as they were before the pandemic.

In the same New York Times article above, the author reports that we’re using less of our mobile apps, but are turning more to Facebook and streaming services like Netflix – with usage up 27% and 16% respectively since the first COVID-19 death in the U.S.

But if you have a podcast and are hoping people are listening more with their free time, some of the data looks a little grim. According to Stitcher data, listening is down between 9-11%.

The takeaway?

As marketers, we need to be empathetic and understanding that our society has changed. Unemployment is reaching record highs, people are dying and all of the above are taking a toll on our physical and mental health.

Take a look at your campaigns and messaging. How can you shift to be more empathetic and helpful? How does your earned, owned and paid content mix change in this new landscape? Think about who your audience is and how they’re affected by the current crisis. If you divert your promotions to channels they’re using more of, make sure your message strikes the balance of meeting their needs, and yours. If you need some additional guidance – particularly on your paid strategy – here are some thoughts from our friends over at Lewis Media Partners.

Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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