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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New data shows that there's been a pullback from the historically high levels of media audience growth — and in some cases consumption — during 2020, pointing to signs of a slight "attention recession" in the past few months.

The big picture: The COVID-19 pandemic drove a once-in-a-lifetime surge in the attention economy online, but the gradual return of normal life in many places — along with media overload and exhaustion — has down-shifted consumption patterns.

Why it matters: "We're returning to more normal growth levels compared to the pandemic," says Ian Olgeirson, a research director at Kagan, the media research unit of S&P Global. "For 2022, we expect growth to tail off even more so than it has already in 2021," in some sectors.

Details: The retreat from at-home activities has negatively impacted the growth of several media industries on a year-over-year basis.

  • Broadband: A new report from Kagan shows that broadband subscriber growth "cooled significantly in the third quarter," stalling in growth for the first time in three years. The decline can be attributed to "a difficult comparison with the booming gains of 2020," the report notes.
  • Subscription streaming: Subscription streaming subscriber growth slowed last quarter for most of the major streaming services. "Churn is a challenge as consumers get back to a new normal routine," said Andrew Hare, SVP of research for global media & entertainment at media research firm Magid.
  • News: News consumption has plummeted, according to data from SimilarWeb. There's been a 12.4% decrease in readership across the top 10 most visited news sites between October 2020 and October 2021.

Yes, but: This year is still performing better than 2019 in terms of news engagement, per SimilarWeb.

  • And despite slowed levels of subscriber growth, household broadband and streaming usage is still higher than 2019.

The bottom line: "I don't think media consumption will go back down to pre-COVID levels," said Seema Shah, senior director of research and analytics, experience at SimilarWeb.

  • While we've hit a point of saturation for growth across many subscription sectors, analysts say there's much more room for growth in the U.S. for free, ad-supported streaming.

What to watch: Some of the supply chain issues related to the pandemic will continue to contribute to slowed media growth for the next few months.

  • Roku, for example, warned on its latest earnings call that the slowdown in its active account growth rate last quarter was, in large part, "attributable to global supply chain disruptions that have impacted the U.S. TV market."
  • Kagan's latest industry outlook report similarly warns that a shortage of semiconductors "will impact the flow of devices and constrict headroom for growth" for some media sectors.

Go deeper

Feb 13, 2019 - Economy & Business

BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize after mass layoffs

Inside BuzzFeed headquarters in New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Employees at BuzzFeed News announced Tuesday they have voted to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York, claiming in a statement that they have "legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more."

Why it matters: This comes weeks after the company laid off more than 220 employees, or roughly 15% of its workforce, including jobs within its news division. It is a huge blow to BuzzFeed's leadership, which has in the past suggested that it could be a better advocate for employees than a union could be.

Abrams’ campaign manager rules out 2024 run if she wins governor's race

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

In her first major interview since the official announcement, Stacey Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo quashed speculation that the Georgia Democrat would interrupt a theoretical gubernatorial term to run for president in 2024.

Why it matters: Abrams' name has come up repeatedly as a top 2024 Democratic contender given President Joe Biden's age and Vice President Kamala Harris's low favorability rating.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump social media group raises $1 billion from undisclosed investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Donald Trump's social media startup on Saturday announced that it secured $1 billion in new investment as part of its ongoing efforts to become publicly traded via a blank check company.

Between the lines: None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction.