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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

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.