Two-fifths (38%) of consumers say they are reading more online news as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This is according to a GlobalWebIndex survey of internet users in the UK and US, questioned between the 13th and 16th of March.

Further, a greater number of consumers report watching more linear TV (36%) than online TV content (24%), and this is true across all age groups. Over one-quarter are spending longer using social media (27%) and listening to music (26%).

Overall, two-thirds (67%) say they have made a significant change to their at home behaviour as a result of the coronavirus. This reaches 70% of those in the United States but drops to just one-half (52%) of the UK.

Across key media activities, more Americans have increased their consumption than those in the UK. For example, just 14% of UK consumers are watching more online TV, almost half the proportion of US consumers (26%).

The slower changing of UK media habits is also visible more widely – across 10 markets, the UK places sixth in the share of consumers shifting their purchases from in-store to online.

Age plays an important role in changing media consumption. Four-fifths (79%) of millennials say they have made a significant change to their at home behaviour, compared to just one-third (36%) of Baby Boomers.

Buying items online has seen a strong increase among millennials (26%) and Gen X (24%) but far less so among Gen Z (12%) and Baby Boomers (3%). A notable gap also exists for gaming; one-fifth (21%) of Gen Z and millennials are spending longer, more than double the 8% for Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Rather than tailoring their strategy to these new habits, many advertisers have hit the 'pause' button and may instead shift spend to the second half of the year.

However, this may not be the best strategy for brands. Consumers expect businesses to support government interventions and want more information about staying healthy, something brands can help with. 

Furthermore, by taking a proactive role, brands can gain trust and respect. Indeed, these changes to media consumption may persist once the outbreak ultimately ends so marketers should look to incorporate them into strategy revisions.

Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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