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Trends to know: COVID-19’s effect on media consumption

BY Sheila Smiley IN Advertising

Marketing and advertising budgets are typically the first to be slashed during an economic downturn. In 2020, the ad industry is bracing for a projected loss of $26 billion in revenue. However, cutting advertising and media budgets may not be the best move for every brand right now. Multiple media channels have seen spikes in engagement since the pandemic hit, representing significant opportunities for those looking to reach new and/or larger audiences.

From seeking out the latest news to simply being home more, everyone’s day-to-day routines have changed and so have the ways to reach them. Three major channels have seen usage spikes: social media, broadcast TV and streaming services.

Social media

While social media usage has been growing for years, there’s been a strong surge during the coronavirus outbreak. As we mentioned in a previous blog, people across the U.S. have increasingly looked to social media for updates relating to the pandemic. Social media provides relatively easy access to news, entertainment and communication with friends and family.

A large portion of this surge, though, can likely be attributed to idle hands. Instagram Live usage increased 70% from mid-March to mid-April and TikTok, which reported 315 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020, was nearing 2 billion total downloads on April 29. Overall, people are spending much more time on social media, further solidifying the platform’s place in our lives – and its importance as an advertising strategy.

Broadcast TV

Aside from social media, broadcast TV consumption has experienced a significant uptick. People are turning to their local news channels to receive updates in their areas and elsewhere. Nielsen reports double-digit increases in broadcast TV usage in some locations. Also, a recent marketing survey found that consumers are supporting advertisers during the pandemic, especially when brands offer sympathetic or helpful messaging.

Streaming Platforms

Subscription-based streaming services have also seen rapid growth. Netflix, Hulu and other subscription-based entertainment channels have seen staggeringly high increases in sign-ups over the last several months. Netflix had new 106,000 sign-ups on March 14 alone, in contrast to 21,900 sign-ups on Feb. 14. Platforms are scrambling to meet this newfound demand, with bandwidth across all video streaming services increasing by 12%. Not only are people subscribing to multiple services, they are also watching more consistently throughout the day.

Numerous advertisers have been slow to capitalize on these trends, with many of the world’s biggest companies reducing their spends during the crisis. The pandemic has shown everyone how quickly life can change, even in the world of marketing. These shifts indicate a need to revisit your previously set media strategy. Especially in tumultuous times, brands should take a new look at some old basics – who is your ideal customer, and what media do they most use right now?

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