Digital Publishing
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News media: a rare bright spot in “the sharpest decline in consumer spending that we have ever seen”

Across the United States, consumer spending is down. People are cautious about making purchases, with the looming uncertainty about how long the coronavirus will last or the financial impact it may have. 

According to a New York Times analysis of data from Earnest Research—which tracks and analyzes credit card and debit card purchases of nearly six million people in the United States—spending on travel has slumped, restaurant sales have plummeted, spending on transportation is way down, shopping is down overall, and even spending on health, paradoxically, has fallen.

“This is the sharpest decline in consumer spending that we have ever seen,” said Luke Tilley, Chief Economist at Wilmington Trust.

Spending on media and entertainment is mixed, with most types of entertainment that require people to congregate being on hold. Among the positives, streaming services—including Netflix and Spotify—are enjoying gains, and spending on video game companies like Twitch and Nintendo is booming. 

News media and e-books are also showing a decent uptick.

Although not at par with Netflix or gaming growth, the readership for both local and established newspapers has seen a significant boost

Americans have also been seeking out more established media brands for information on the public health crisis and its economic consequences. CNBC, the business news site, has seen readership skyrocket. The websites for The New York Times and The Washington Post have both grown traffic more than 50 percent over the last month.

Ella Koeze and Nathaniel Popper, NYT

Trust in news media has also grown considerably during the pandemic. 

54% of U.S. adults say the news media have done an excellent or good job responding to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center.

The public’s assessment of this media response comes at a time when many U.S. news organizations are covering the coronavirus pandemic while themselves facing financial pressure from it. 

A growing number have announced layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures as the virus inflicts widespread pain on the economy, and these cuts come on top of years of earlier reductions in newsroom staffing, especially at newspapers.

John Gramlich, Pew Research Center

The hardships facing newsrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic have led some observers to call for a “journalism stimulus” to help the news industry shore up its finances, Pew reports.


Charts courtesy: New York Times

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