The impact of Covid-19 on UK media consumption habits

March 23, 2021

Changing consumer habits

What a year 2020 turned to be, with the impact of Covid-19 continuing to be felt around the globe.

As well as impacting the way we live and work, the pandemic has had a significant impact on how the nation is consuming their media.

In our latest blog post we take a look at this impact in more detail and explore what the media industry is doing in response to these changing consumption habits.

Indoor vs. outdoor media

With the vast majority of consumers working from home since lockdown first began, both TV and Video on Demand viewing numbers have increased significantly, up by a staggering 50% year-on-year in some cases. In addition, the daily political briefing has seen a return to a national appointment-to-view occasion, with almost 30 million people tuning in at the peak of the virus.

In stark contrast, the Out of Home market dropped significantly with the Rail and Tube networks slumping to around 5% of ‘normal’ levels. Although this is starting to improve, it may only hit 50-60% of ‘normal’ by September.

Print numbers have also held up well as consumers turn to well established, traditional news sources for their virus updates, and audio channels have seen numbers grow with podcasts providing in-depth analysis and much needed escapism. Radio audience numbers are also up, although the traditional peaks of Breakfast and Drive-Time have seen decreases as in-car listening slumps due to less commuting taking place across the country.

So, who are the biggest winners in terms of audience numbers during lockdown? Digital channels have certainly benefitted since the pandemic began, with consumers spending more time watching online video, reading the news, streaming the latest box-sets and keeping in touch with friends and family through their social media channels.

Have consumers been actively avoiding news?

Although some reports showed an initial increase in news consumption, there is also evidence that some consumers are actively avoiding the news after Covid-19 news fatigue kicked in.

According to the Reuters Institute, “After an initial surge in news use, there has been a significant increase in news avoidance, with 22% saying they ‘often or always actively try to avoid the news’ (up from 15% in mid-April), growing to 59% of those who say they ‘sometimes actively avoid the news’ are included (up from 49% in mid-April).”

In addition, Google search trends have shifted significantly with a much bigger focus on products and services ‘near me’, a need to find out how to do things ‘at home’ including haircuts and DIY, as well as career choices and job searches. However, as might be expected, travel searches decreased significantly.

How will these trends affect brands?

The key for brands will be to understand which of these trends are set to stay for the long-term, with some reports suggesting that consumers will continue to watch more video, stream more music and spend more time on social channels in the new post-Covid world.

Here are some of the main ways that brands can keep up with these changing UK media consumption habits:

  • A shift towards more flexible channels: An ability to control your marketing channel deployment with ultimate flexibility will be hugely beneficial in such uncertain times. At The Nest we self-serve the majority of our digital channels and this helps to ensure that our clients can increase or decrease spend at will, allowing them to react to any changes in demand impacted by unforeseen events.
  • Media pricing will change: TV pricing has been impacted significantly by the pandemic, with the perfect storm of less advertising money in the market (demand) and more people watching (supply) - as a result, ITV pricing has dropped by as much as 50% in April 2020. However, the increased demand for certain audiences or keywords will have also led to the auction-based pricing of some digital channels to fluctuate. At The Nest we’re committed to helping our client’s understand the changing trends of media pricing, and the opportunities that this presents.
  • Reacting to consumer habits effectively: Tracking consumer habits is going to be key in making the most of the opportunities presented over the coming weeks, months and years, and at The Nest we help our clients understand media consumption habits through regular updates of their audience’s behaviour.

To find out how The Nest could help your marketing budget to go further in these ever-changing times, visit: thenest.co.uk or contact Edd at edd@thenest.co.uk or call 07765 260 127

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