Daily online content consumption around the world has soared since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, doubling on average from 3 hours 17 minutes to 6 hours 59 minutes, a new study finds.

Media measurement company DoubleVerify analysed the digital habits of more than 10,000 consumers across France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US to reveal how their online behaviour had changed since the COVID pandemic began.

The surge in content consumption is partly driven by a big uplift in the use of connected TV devices (CTV), with almost half of consumers (44%) using CTV devices more. Some 48% of those surveyed also said they were using social media platforms more.

Overall, YouTube has seen the biggest growth in audience interest, with 43% of consumers spending more time on the platform. Meanwhile, TikTok has seen the highest growth among the 18–24 demographic.

Crucially for advertisers, it is clear that consumers are heavily influenced by context: 55% of those surveyed said they would be less likely to buy, or would never buy, a product that was advertised alongside fake or inflammatory news. A further 67% were more likely to look at an ad that appeared on a trusted news site.

Again, ads placed contextually have a much greater chance of successfully engaging consumers. Food and beverage brands in particular see engagement gains: 68% of consumers said they were more likely to engage with ads in this category when they appeared alongside related content such as recipes and restaurant reviews.

Indeed, across all categories surveyed, 48% of people said they were more likely to engage if ads ran alongside related content.

In general, consumers say they are open to online advertising, with 44% having tried a new brand after seeing an ad for it. However, targeting is key: younger consumers prefer ads on social media, whereas those aged over 45 have a preference for ads on TV.

There are also significant differences between markets, researchers found. US consumers prefer ads on social media, but French, UK and Spanish consumers prefer TV; meanwhile Germans favour online news.

“This study highlights consumers’ openness to contextually-relevant ads and the importance of trusted news during these challenging times,” said Dan Slivjanovski, CMO at DoubleVerify.

“Given the complex news cycles of 2020, a nuanced approach to brand suitability is more critical than ever. Solutions that protect brand reputation and power performance, while complying with consumer privacy demands, are essential in the new normal,” he added.

Sourced from DoubleVerify; additional content by WARC staff