Mar 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

America's new favorite pastime

News consumption has skyrocketed in the U.S. over the past few weeks due to the coronavirus, according to TV ratings, web traffic, app downloads and social media interactions.

Why it matters: Without live sports and with Hollywood production put on pause, consumers are confined to the only type of new professional-grade content that's still being produced daily: news.

Data: Apptopia; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios (News Break is a local news aggregation app)

Driving the news: According to a new survey from TV analysis company Magid, 51% are increasing their consumption of news amid the coronavirus outbreak, with 49% checking on the news multiple times a day.

  • App downloads for every type of news outlet, digital, radio and television/video is up, according to new data from Apptopia. That includes downloads for cable news apps, national newspapers, and local news aggregation.
  • Cable news networks have seen viewership surge more than 50% since the beginning of the year, according to an analysis by television measurement company Alphonso. 
  • Broadcast newscasts are also seeing ratings bumps, with some networks adding more news coverage to replace reality TV and entertainment content to feed the demand.
  • Social media interactions on stories from a group of 10 major publishers have increased 56% over the last two weeks, compared to the rest of the year, according to data from NewsWhip.
  • Publishers are seeking their traffic totals spike, according to data from Parse.ly. Sites in the Parsely network have seen a 61% jump in page views over the last two weeks compared to the previous 7 weeks.
Data: Parse.ly; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Yes, but: The advertising landscape continues to experience fallout.

  • The advertising market is expected to take a hit as major companies in retail, transportation and other sectors pull back marketing dollars in response to consumer dropoff.
  • As Axios reported last weekend, dozens of newsrooms across the country are laying off employees despite major traffic and viewership increases.

The big picture: While live sports games, particularly NFL games, tend to dominate television consumption, a new report from the Video Advertising Bureau argues that TV news has been giving sports a run for its money over the past few years.

  • More than 40 billion hours of national TV news are now being consumed annually by adults, a 34% increase since 2014, per the report. National TV news advertising spend has consistently gone up over that time period.

Between the lines: In what is normally a scattered and decentralized media and entertainment landscape, the nation's interest is now concentrated around the same information and the same developments in the news.

  • Having the same shared priorities allows news to be shared much wider than in normal times.

The bottom line: In the era of a pandemic, news has become America's biggest pastime.

Go deeper

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.