Media consumption habits have been shifting since early March, with a continuous increase in overall content consumption as developments in the spread of COVID-19 are released and people try to stay abreast of coronavirus updates. Specifically, they’re moving to digital platforms as a source of information, research, productivity, and entertainment.[i]

This shift in media consumption habits has resulted in an increased return on ad spend (ROAS) and on digital media as people are purchasing more online. At the same time, media costs are decreasing as some brands pull back on ad spending, causing in-market competition to decline.[ii]

What are the biggest changes we’re seeing in the media due to COVID-19?

As U.S consumers adjust to a new way of life in the wake of COVID-19, such as sheltering in place and restrictions on public gatherings, entertainment and technology usage continues to rise with a few trends that stand out.

Social media consumption is up. According to Influential’s Market Impact Report[iii], users confined at home since early March are turning to social media to connect. There has been a 29 percent increase in time spent on social media, 184 minutes per day up from 143 minutes per day across all social platforms. Instagram and YouTube saw the biggest increases-;32 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

Audio and podcast space is booming. With the shift to working from home and 90 percent of current remote workers[iv] being audio streamers,[v] audio consumption is projected to rise. Spotify and Acast are experiencing high demand for podcast advertising with people also looking to these streaming audio services as a medium for entertainment and education.

Cable news and over-the-top (OTT) viewership is up. Initially sparked by increased news consumption, now starting to taper off,[vi] as well as with linear TV missing live events and sporting programs, cable news saw an increase between the initial outbreak and now. Streaming video platforms expect to see ad spending continue to grow.

Content preference is shifting.Content consumption on topics related to COVID-19 such as science, news, business, and health all saw increases as expected. Entertainment has experienced a spike as people look for outlets of distraction. Categories such as home and garden, outdoor, and fashion saw a decline, most likely due to people’s inability to enjoy related activities and not prioritizing apparel as a necessity.[vii]

User-generated content (UGC) resonates.According to Influential’s COVID-19 Market Impact Report[viii], people’s positive sentiment is highest when the message is being delivered by influencers compared to brands’ owned and operated channels. More specifically, 80 percent positive comments are generated from influencer campaigns vs. 24 percent brands’ owned and operated channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

What changes should brands and advertisers make to their media strategy?

Brands are looking to connect with people in authentic ways. Given the increase in digital consumption, paid and organic tactics are ideal. Paid tactics being any external marketing efforts that involve a paid placement, (i.e., Display, Broadcast, Facebook). Organic marketing refers to the act of getting your customers to come to you naturally, as opposed to via paid links or boosted posts. A brand posting and sharing their own content via social media is the most common tactic.

But they must ensure their communications and the content they’re developing are both relevant and sensitive to the current socio-economic climate. According to “The Impact Of COVID-19 On Consumer Content Consumption” from Nativo, each facet of a brand’s COVID-19 media plan should answer three main questions:

  1. Is this content authentic?
  2. Does this content address a core concern for my central audience?
  3. Does this content deliver value in the current environment?

How can a brand make these changes?

  1. Evaluate and audit current messaging in market
  2. Look for opportunities to make updates based on business goals and objectives and what content in market is most popular
  3. Determine whether it makes sense to shift the media mix or adjust the messaging to be more sensitive to the current climate based on brand vertical and goals

In times like these, brands should look for opportunities to genuinely connect with their consumers in relevant ways and offer valuable content in the forms of education or entertainment that serve as outlets.