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A lot has changed in 2020, including the way we consume media

Sep 17, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our everyday lives in a lot of ways—the way we shop, the way we work, the way we teach our children and more. The same can be said about how we are interacting with and consuming media during this crisis.

Since many of us have more time on our hands, our personal media consumption has skyrocketed. We are consuming streaming video, music, games and online publications at an exponential rate. And it’s not just an increase in smartphone usage—we are spending more time on our laptops and tablets than before the pandemic. Even Facebook has seen a 27% increase in users logging directly into Facebook's website versus utilizing the Facebook mobile apps. Additionally, video streaming on websites versus mobile apps has grown significantly as Facebook, Netflix and YouTube are showing double-digit increases for website usage.

As media consumption rises, so does the need to find new content to consume. Consumers are hungry for new content during the stay-at-home orders, and the ability to share original new content will be highly important for streaming services to satisfy consumer desire for fresh programming.

Video streaming is leading the way. It is estimated that nearly 67% of people are watching more television and video than before the pandemic. Streaming behaviors have most likely changed for the long term as people have moved their viewing habits from a linear platform to a digital platform. The New York Times reported that video streaming has increased 27.1% year over year and Nielsen noted that both streaming television and cable program ratings have more than doubled during the pandemic.

Content providers have adapted to keep up with the increase in consumption and have been providing longer free trials, free premium content and even modifying content schedules. Short-form video service Quibi, debuted in April, and HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock launched in May and July, respectively. Streaming device company Roku has also seen large gains, adding almost 3 million new users during the first quarter of the year.

We are seeking connection through social media

Since large social gatherings have been put on hiatus, we are utilizing social media platforms more to maintain connections with our family and friends.

This is most evident across Facebook’s messaging services, which have had an increase of more than 50% in usage. Within their Messenger and WhatsApp channels, the use of voice and video calling features have also doubled. Facebook has also launched Facebook Rooms where users can create private rooms and invite up to 50 people to video chat at a time.

Platforms like Snapchat and TikTok are also seeing a surge in activity. Snapchat’s daily average users have increased to over 238 million, and the platform’s group chat, Snap Games and Snapchat Shows features are also seeing record highs in usage. Additionally, the short video platform TikTok was the second most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide in April, after Zoom.

Twitter has seen a year over year increase in users of 23%, to 166 million daily users. News-centric users are shifting to the channel to keep up with the latest updates during the pandemic.

Verizon has reported that video game usage has increased 75% as gamers use the live and multi-person gaming features to interact with friends and other gamers during the pandemic.

It's not just video and social usage increasing

The growth in media usage is not limited to video streaming alone. The New York Times digital subscriptions have seen double-digit growth. USA Today's newsletters are boasting open rates of 40% and Time, Inc is reporting a 70% open rate for its coronavirus newsletters. Consumers are seeking out the timeliest news and seeking content specific to science and health. LiveIntent found that health and fitness newsletters are seeing a 34% increase in engagement, while “hard news” newsletters are seeing a 23% increase in engagement.

What does this all mean?

This increase in media consumption equates more impressions across digital channels. The majority of users are spending more time with digital video content and streaming TV. Advertisers that have not ventured into connected TV (CTV), Google Video or social video may want to consider adding those placements into their media rotation since there are more eyes on those screens. Also, optimizing digital ads for desktop versus mobile may help increase overall performance, especially in platforms like Facebook and Google Display. Advertisers should take advantage of this increase in consumer media consumption as platforms are providing strong foundations to distribute messages. Consumers are seeking new content to keep them informed about the world, including products and services that can help them navigate this new landscape.

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