Axios Media Trends

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April 28, 2020

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Situational awareness: Tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET,  I’m answering questions via a Twitter Video Q&A on how the coronavirus is impacting the media industry. Tweet your questions using #AskAxios & #AskAxiosSara.

Today 12:30 p.m. ET, please join an Axios live virtual event on education. Kim Hart and Jim VandeHei beam in Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda and Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer. Register here.

1 big thing: How to combat coronavirus misinformation

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's more effective for authoritative figures to present accurate facts early and routinely alongside misinformation, rather than trying to negate misinformation after-the-fact, according to conversations with experts.

Why it matters: Research provides a roadmap for more effective and efficient management of the coronavirus "infodemic" by health experts, government officials internet platforms and news companies.

1) Proactive messaging: Gaps in the public's background knowledge about common sense flu cures, like whether vitamin C prevents viruses, show "ongoing need for effective communication of needed information long before a crisis," according to research from Kathleen Hall Jamieson of Annenberg Public Policy Center and

2) Pre-bunking: People who made aware of the flawed reasoning found in conspiracy theories, they may become less vulnerable to such theories, says psychologist and professor Stephan Lewandowsky.

3) Label misinformation at the source level: It's better to rate the sources of misinformation that are repeat offenders, like certain websites or authors, rather than pieces of content themselves, argue Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz of NewsGuard.

4. Go where fake news spreads: It's not effective for health care officials to spread context in venues where people generally don't receive misinformation.

5. The 10% rule: Some experts say it's better to wait until a piece of misinformation reaches a 10% penetration level amongst the population before it's debunked, otherwise, you risk unintentionally spreading the rumor.

The big picture: When society began to seriously reckon with "fake news" and misinformation after the 2016 election, there were may efforts to impose binary solutions by identifying information as being true or false, and blocking or removing it accordingly. Experts say this is problematic.

Go deeper.

2. The golden age for business news

Reproduced from SimilarWeb; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from SimilarWeb; Chart: Axios Visuals

Business and finance coverage is the fastest-growing area of news and information content during the coronavirus era, according to data from SimilarWeb.

The big picture: For the first time in several years, politics is not the top news category in America, or globally.

Driving the news: Of the several hundred global news websites measured by SimilarWeb for this analysis, business and finance news websites grew 42% year-over-year, while other types of news, like sports, lost significant traffic.

  • saw the highest percentage growth out of any business website, growing 140.5% year-over-year from last year's first quarter to this year's, per SimilarWeb.
  • The fastest-growing finance and news websites also include,,,,, (Motley Fool),, and
  • Bloomberg says the number of new subscribers in March was up 178%, with average daily new subscribers up by 4x the historical rate. The company says its social-first video news network QuickTake was up 71%in March.
  • CNBC says it saw a record 115 million unique visitors in March, per Comscore, an increase of 98% year-over-year.

Between the lines: Viewership of business television is also up, alongside the rest of cable news and television news, as people are stuck at home.

  • Looking at the first full week in April for three key financial cable TV news networks in aggregate (CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg), we see 10% growth in their average audience month-over-month and 60% growth year-over year, according to a spokesperson at Comscore.

3. ESPN's baseball plan

Illustration: Axios/Sarah Grillo

With the future of the 2020 baseball season still unknown, ESPN is relying on reruns of classic games, including a May 12 telecast focused on Derek Jeter, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: ESPN sees value in re-airing classics, especially with mega-stars. Without live sports, it's the closest thing the network can offer to baseball fans, who tend to be older and less likely to tune into alternatives like eSports.

The Jeter game will be subject to a fan vote as part of ESPN’s MLB Encore Tuesdays series.

  • There will be a poll on starting next Monday with a handful of Jeter’s most significant games.
  • The winning game will air at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Jeter, who is headlining the National Baseball Hall of Fame class this year, remains one of the most popular MLB personalities.

The big picture: Specialized programming around stars or historic games allows the network to build new content, like interviews with athletes, or fan engagement polls, which ESPN will be leveraging for its Jeter special.

Go deeper.

4. Consortium coverage for coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Consortium coverage" is becoming a bigger trend as news companies experience dramatic businesses losses and join forces on complicated topics like coronavirus.

Driving the news: Colorado newsrooms are uniting to cover COVID-19. The Associated Press says it's worked with nearly two dozen Colorado news organizations to cover the state's response to the pandemic using a tool launched by the AP called "StoryShare," which allows newsrooms to share content and coverage plans. 

  • In Oregon, more than a dozen news outlets, including the Salem Reporter, The Oregonian, and Eugene Weekly, have agreed to share and cross-promote COVID-19 coverage, per Nieman Lab.
  • In New Hampshire, a group of media outlets in a pre-existing group called the Granite State News consortium is working together to elevate COVID-19 coverage.

Other states that have been using local teamwork to conquer tough beats.

  • In Florida, six newsrooms, including the Tampa Bay Times, Palm Beach Post and the Orlando Sentinel, teamed up to cover climate change last year.
  • In California, Bay Area News Group, which includes newspapers like Mercury News, the Los Angeles Times and KQED, an NPR-member radio station in San Francisco, worked together last year to cover a police misconduct records dump, per CJR.
  • In Pennsylvania, newsrooms like the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette teamed up in 2018 to cover the state government.

Our thought bubble: Expect to see more local partnerships develop between newsrooms as news companies experience more economic fallout from the coronavirus.

5. Apple doubles down on news podcasts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple Podcasts has launched an updated News category in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia, a spokesperson tells Axios.

Why it matters: Podcast consumption for the news as a category is skyrocketing, according to data from podcast analytics company Podtrac.

Details: Beginning Tuesday, Apple's editorial team will recommend new collections and shows inside of the News category within Apple Podcasts, which will feature information around COVID-19 and the U.S. presidential election.

  • Earlier this month, Apple Podcasts launched "COVID-19: Essential Listening,” a collection of the best news, science, health, and culture podcasts around the topic.
  • Apple also has built voice commands through Siri that play the latest news around the pandemic from sources like CNN or the BBC when asked for information around key words like "COVID-19,” “coronavirus,”or “health."

By the numbers: According to a spokesperson, Apple Podcasts now has 1 million shows in more than 100 languages and 175 countries and regions.

What's next: Similar news podcast recommendations will roll out to additional countries and regions in the future.

6. How search and social media can help predict outbreaks

Data: Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A detailed new analysis of how Google searches changed since January traces Americans' real-time scramble to get ahead of the pandemic as new information surfaced — from "What is coronavirus?" to "What is Zoom?"

Why it matters: The project by Google Trends, Schema and Axios shows how searches became more specific as infections spread across the United States — documenting Americans' urgency as questions shifted from the general to practical ones about how to protect themselves and how to get tested, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

The big picture: Tracking social media “sick posts” could give public health officials a head start on identifying emerging disease outbreaks, according to new research from the University of California, Davis.

  • Last month Axios reported that research from scientists at Northeastern University suggests that there's a link that can be observed between contagions spreading in real life and misinformation spreading about them online.
  • "A link between social contagions and real biological contagions are a feature of modern outbreaks because of misinformation and fake news," says Samuel Scarpino, a business professor of network science at Northeastern University College of Science. 

7. Catch up quick

  • Google says all advertisers will need to submit personal identification, business incorporation documents or other information that proves who they are moving forward. (Axios)
  • AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will retire on July 1st, the company announced Friday. COO John Stankey will take his place. A bitter shareholder battle last year threatened Stankey's shot at the top job. (Axios)
  • Facebook said Friday that it's launching a new video chat feature called "Messenger Rooms" that looks and functions similar to Zoom, except it allows far more people — up to 50 — to join at once for free. (Axios)
  • Most newspapers don’t qualify for federal coronavirus aid. "Papers representing more than 80% of U.S. circulation are disqualified from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program because of the way their companies are structured." (WSJ)
  • The National Football League's first-ever virtual draft shattered viewership records on Thursday night, with roughly 15.6 million people tuning in across digital platforms, ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes. (Axios)
  • Condé Nast's priorities are being challenged by the coronavirus crisis. "The theatrical flourishes and lavish lifestyles of the great media figures of a generation seem ill suited to the moment." (NYT)
  • Trump plans to cut daily coronavirus briefings (Axios) ... White House reverses course after canceling coronavirus press briefing (Axios)

8. The war on screen time, forgotten

Reproduced from Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals

While usage of most mobile apps has remained neutral during the coronavirus pandemic, social media app usage has exploded during the lockdown, according to new data from Nielsen.

Why it matters: Prior to the pandemic, consumers and tech companies were both becoming more aware of the overuse of social media and actively trying to limit it. In a time when people can't connect with friends and family in person, companies have put these efforts on pause.

The bottom line: The coronavirus pandemic is deepening users' immersion in social media at a moment when society had just begun to question it.

Go deeper.

9. 1 fun thing: Snopes says nope


Snopes will be featured as its on category on Jeopardy! tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET. The 26-year-old fact-checking site has been mentioned a few times in questions over the years, but this is the first time it's getting its own category.