COVID-19 has changed our media habits – by Chris Zaccaro

A ton has changed since COVID-19 reached our shores and most of us were sent home to wait it all out—especially the volume of content we’ve been consuming to both inform and entertain ourselves.

With nowhere to be and no one to see, people have been predictably relying on their at-home televisions, smartphones and devices. Nearly 90% of Americans say they are consuming more content than before the pandemic, with most turning to broadcast television, online videos and online TV.

On the other side of the coin, consumers have been turning away from other mediums such as podcasts as they leave their daily commutes, visits to the gym and other regular outside-the-home activities behind.

Podcast consumption, which was up an impressive 31% from the beginning of the year, has been slowly dipping since March, dropping around 10% over the last few weeks (according to Podtrac, which reports on podcast trends). This is not surprising, and it’s probably safe to expect podcast and radio listening to increase once people are back to commuting to work, getting their workouts in, hosting parties and lounging at the pool or beach. So, keep that impressive pre-pandemic podcast growth rate in mind if you are thinking about developing a series of your own.

What are people looking for?

According to the Global Web Index’s April 2020 Report on Media Consumption and Sport, the largest amount of online activity (68% of consumers) has been searches for coronavirus information—and that applies across all demographics and generations, except for 16-23 year olds who are more likely to be searching for music, naturally.

While the numbers clearly show a continued demand for updates on the pandemic and recovery rates, many people are ready to start seeing positive and local stories again. We have seen Connecticut news stations focusing on positive news in recent weeks, which I think we can all agree is welcome during this challenging time. This is something brands and organizations should now be thinking about and considering, as the curve begins to flatten and the “stay safe, stay home” way of life begins to ease.

Who are consumers turning to?

When it comes to trustworthy sources for COVID-19 information, twice as many Americans trust the World Health Organization (WHO) more than news websites (30%). Sadly, TV news channels are not doing much better (37%). Think about that statistic for a moment: only 37% of Americans think news channels have trustworthy information about the coronavirus in the midst of a global emergency.

Interestingly, the communications firm Edelman published a special edition of its annual Trust Barometer Report, which reveals that employers are considered to be the most credible sources of information related to coronavirus. According to Edleman, “Employees want to be informed beyond the effect on the company, including advice on travel and what can be done to stop the spread of the virus. They want to get the information via email or newsletter (48%), posts on the company website (33%) and phone/video conferences (23%).

Many are turning to online and streaming entertainment, with people reporting they are more likely to pay a subscription for an entertainment service, like Netflix or Disney+, than a trustworthy news source. That may be partially due to the lack of trust noted in the Global Web Index Report, but more likely it’s the need for escapism during this challenging time and the plethora of free news on the internet—which as we know, is not all trustworthy.

It’s also not new news. As we reported last year in our State of the Media Market, only 15% of adults here in the Hartford area actually pay for local news.

What’s happening on social?

Overall and unsurprisingly, social media usage is up—but people aren’t just talking about Tiger King, dancing to Tik Tok and crying about Tom Brady and Gronk. Who the Giants beat twice in the Super Bowl I might add.

LinkedIn has seen a sharp increase in its professional development courses since the stay at home orders were put in place. As per LinkedIn, “In the first week of April, people watched 1.7 million hours of learning content on LinkedIn Learning vs. 560,000 hours in the first week of January – a 3X increase in time spent learning.”

This means people are sharpening their skills as they’re working at home or seeking a new job, signaling that now is the time to leverage LinkedIn to highlight your industry knowledge or your organization’s capabilities.

Watch the trends, and plan ahead

Everyone hopes that this time will pass and we can restore a sense of relative normalcy to our daily lives sooner than later. These trends may be temporary or they may repeat themselves in the fall/winter months if COVID-19 levels climb again, as the CDC has warned us. We will be watching and keeping you informed as we all look ahead to the future.  

As we pointed out last week, now is the time to plan. The businesses that will endure beyond this pandemic are busy preparing and planning to innovate and renovate their business plans, product lines and services right now, so when they emerge from these challenging times they are ready to renew and rebuild.

Please remember you can find a trove of information on COVID-19, with resources from the state and federal government at ct.gov/Coronavirus.

Stay safe, everyone.

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