Oh, great media days! How has the pandemic influenced our media consumption precisely?

Coronavirus turned our daily rhythms completely upside down and so it increased our media consumption naturally as we actively sought information and entertainment while staying at home. But how much exactly by channel? And what will happen post-pandemic? Let’s discover.

Global thirstiness for information

Media consumption spiked globally in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak as people around the world sought info to remain updated on the still very unknown and scary rapidly changing crisis. For example, according to Nielsen’s report of global media consumption time spent with media (March 2020 / March 2019) boomed in almost every country all across the globe:

At the same time, in Finland – Kantar study about Finnish average media day finds out that Finn’s typical media day stretched from 2019’s 8,5 hours to 9,5 hours per day during self-isolation time. The highest growth rate, +41% was recorded in online services for newspapers, afternoon and free distribution magazines.

The huge leap in our media time was partly caused by news following, but we also wanted something that would make us forget about the tough situation for a while. A brief respite in the middle of worrying news flow. That’s when we resorted to entertainment.

Key findings in people’s media consumption in 2020

Linear TV plays still an important role as a news and entertainment source

Total viewing time increased in 2020 on a global level, although it missed several popular sports, music and culture live events. 

Finnpanel Oy reported in its latest TV watching study that overall TV viewing time increased 3% in 2020 among Finns. The most-watched program was Yle News on channel Yle 1. To dig deeper – Statista’s numbers reveal that the biggest contrast to the past was during the outbreak of coronavirus in spring 2020, (March & April) when Finns spent 30% more time watching TV compared to last year’s same months. And the figure is global according to Nielsen:

One good thing about linear TV watching and also using TV as a device for streaming services is that it usually gathers the entire family around instead of individual media consumption via smartphone – that is only made fit for one hand. So it is safe to say – increased time spent in front of the TV may positively affect our social lives.

Do you still hear the sentence: “Turn the TV on!” in your household often? The maintained popularity of linear TV might be based on the fact that it’s easily accessible, trusted and a light channel to watch at the same time with other activities, but also because of gained access to a greater selection of channels and forward – increasingly diverse content coverage. We love the full control of what and when we watch and it’s made possible by recording possibilities and an easy jump from linear to the side of online TV.

Finnpanel has gathered facts about Finland’s TV ownership and behaviour. According to them, TV is still a really important media channel for us.

OTT & Streaming video platforms are booming in popularity

The OTT streaming market has seen and is currently experiencing vigorous growth. Statista’s numbers show that approx. 2.13 billion people used over-the-top video worldwide in 2020 compared to 1.96 billion viewers in 2019 (+8,7%). According to the PWC, OTT users will increase to roughly 2.71 billion people globally by 2025.

Only in Finland, streaming services reached one in four Finns in 2020, according to Finnpanel’s report with a clear positive trend compared to 2019. Also, domestic OTT channels saw a +33% rise in popularity.

The rise expects to see ad spending continue to grow among businesses on the OTT & streaming video platforms. Nowadays, we tolerate ads better – because we see them all day long, almost everywhere. On the other hand, the increased share of subscription-based streaming consumption shows that we are likely to pay for our content flow to be less advertising focused and uninterrupted.

Podcasts are trending but there’s still room to grow

People have fallen for audio-only stories. Especially the younger generation worldwide. One of the reasons may be that audio requires just the use of one of our senses. This leads to the possibility of multitasking, as we don’t have to stop our other activities or to-do’s while consuming media in a simple&soundy form of audio. Podcasts focus mainly on entertainment. Most podcasts are listened to on specific topics such as science and technology, business, media, or health.

The global number of podcast listeners, (credit: Statista) has reached a new high in 2020 at 485 million consumers worldwide and it is estimated to increase further to over 800 million users in 2025. Let’s take a look at the global statistics from 2020;

In Finland, Radio Media’s Podcast-survey finds out that in 2020, nearly 40% of 15- to 29-year-olds and 35% of 30- to 44-year-olds have listened to podcasts in the past month.

Social media use is up

As assumed, the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide (credit: Statista) was 145 minutes per day in 2020, up from 142 minutes in the previous year. Growth clearly levelled off over the year because for example – Influential’s COVID-19 Market Impact Report states that only in march 2020, the US reported a 29% (145 mins to 184mins) increase in time spent on social media, where Instagram (+32%) and Youtube (+44%) saw the biggest increases. 

According to Statista’s report – Social media usage in Finland in 2019 was 60%, referring to those who actively log into social media services on a monthly basis. In 2020, the percentage grew by 16%. The biggest growth was particularly in the age group of 16-24 year-olds. The most popular social media platforms among Finns were Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

We still keep going more and more digital

YouGov/Digiday international media consumption report presents that more traditional channels – such as radio, linear TV and print – seem to maintain their popularity among older consumers. But significantly more consumers are going digital-only than traditional-only. This trend is mainly because of the younger generation preferring to seek entertainment from social media and streaming services but we shall not forget that also the older generation is moving in a more digital direction. Slowly but surely.

User-generated content is the thing

According to Influential’s COVID-19 Market Impact Report, people’s positive sentiment is highest when content is made and published by influencers through their own channels (80% positive comments), compared to brands’ owned and operated channels publications (24% positive comments). This may be taken seriously in count as developing the content strategy for the future.

What will happen post-pandemic?

Coronavirus has changed media consumption in 2020. The most important question is  – whether these changes are permanent or will we see a return to the status quo? Some may say, we may return to “the good old days” and spend less time with the media when vaccination coverage in the world begins to be in full swing. Apparently – the biggest media boom was reported during the outbreak of virus in March-April 2020. When the year 2019 changed to 2020 and we got the statistics covering the whole year, the consumption followed a more even, gentler growth curve. But it still increased.

But my personal opinion – and as many people’s opinion – is that the media-centred world will be “the new normal” and worldwide time spent with media will increase every year. We have already seen enormous growth in the field of new digital platforms and channels. And we have eagerly embraced them as part of our media day in addition to other more traditional channels. The content spectrum offered is wide and we seem to enjoy it immensely. And we are still hungry for more fresh content. Covid-19 has taught us how to work and spend leisure time around videos, images and programs individually and socially. And we truly like that digital – easy and effortless world where entertainment, information – and even social life is just a click away. How flexible is that!

This blog post was designed and written by our communications manager, Sara.

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Sara Jokelainen

Communications Manager

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