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“Huge opportunity for media companies”: How COVID-19 is shaping content consumption globally, and what it means for publishers

68% of consumers say they’re searching for coronavirus updates on the internet – making it the biggest online activity, according to latest research by GlobalWebIndex.  

The company has been studying consumers’ media consumption habits in the current pandemic. They include what media people are consuming more of (and plan to continue after the crisis ends). The sources of information they find most trustworthy generally and on social media. What they want to see more of in news coverage and their willingness to pay for the information. 

Coronavirus content currently dominates consumers’ time online across markets, income groups, gender and most generations, except Gen Z (16-23 years-old). This group is more likely to listen to music (71%).

87% of US consumers, and 80% of UK consumers say they’re consuming more content. And they are doing so mostly via broadcast TV, online videos, and online TV streaming.

70% are looking for positivity in the news

Globally, people are most likely to turn to news channels (60%), news websites (55%), news bulletins (45%), government updates (50%) and social media (47%) to stay informed about the outbreak. 

When asked which sources they consider to be most trustworthy, around 50% cited the government. This was followed by news channels and then updates from health organizations. 

Consumers are searching for trustworthy information amid the bogus miracle cures and fake news they’re seeing online, giving publishers a chance to shine.

Rob Williams, Contributing Editor, Mediapost

While people are primarily looking for coronavirus information in the news coverage they consume, they’re also seeking out positive stories. Recovery rates and positive stories are the most sought after in news across every demographic group. 

People also want a degree of critical analysis of how the outbreak is being managed by the government. And around a third of consumers, in the US and the UK, want to see more topics unrelated to the coronavirus. 

Among those seeking more non-coronavirus news, around 30% say they’re searching for sports and celebrity news, and around 70% are looking for positivity in the news they consume. 

The report notes a strong appetite to pay for more media subscriptions, with around 40% respondents in the UK and the US considering purchasing new media subscriptions.

News consumption is the “fastest growing behavior on social platforms”

Social media as a news source has made a resurgence. 49% of US, and 39% of UK consumers are reading more news stories on social media as a result of the outbreak. 

“This is more than the number who are increasingly keeping in touch with family and friends, watching entertainment content, and sharing photos and videos – making news consumption the fastest growing behavior on social platforms,” according to Virna Sekuj, Senior Insights Analyst at GlobalWebIndex.

Certain media consumption behavior may have more staying power, especially in the US, according to GWI. 76% of US online video watchers say they plan to consume just as much content when the outbreak is over. The figure is 58% in the UK. It is followed by book readers, over 70% of whom intend to keep reading just as much after the crisis is over. 

They are followed by millennial podcast listeners, 68% of whom say they intend to keep up with the consumption.

“Readers have returned to trusted news sources”

Although it’s hard to predict the extent to which these plans and expectations will convert to reality, they do indicate potential areas of revenue for digital content providers. 

“Regardless of what type of content we are consuming,” says Katie Jones, Writer and Strategist at Visual Capitalist. “The fact is that every generation is relying on their devices during this pandemic to inform and distract more than ever before, creating a huge opportunity for media companies to engage a captive audience.”

“Considering that the progress of the virus is not yet understood, spending this period investing in a sustainable loyal readership base is a worthwhile endeavor,” writes Hisham Itani, Head Of Marketing at Deep BI, Inc. which helps publishers leverage their first-party data with AI. 

Engaging with readers now and guiding them through the funnel — even if it is with something as simple as a newsletter signup, registration or mobile app download — is betting that over time the customer’s long term value will be significant indeed.

Hisham Itani, Head Of Marketing at Deep BI, Inc.

“Readers have returned to trusted news sources for information and assistance during this difficult time in vast numbers. And the industry has responded overwhelmingly positively by removing  obstacles to COVID-19 content,” adds Itani.

“Adding a strong digital strategy to this mix can help publishers ensure that readers are receiving the proper information and support they need during this troubled time and guarantee their own future in this role.”