Second wave of COVID-19 news saturation begins

After 12 weeks of continual decline, coronavirus saturation in the media has again begun to climb, prompting difficult decisions for communications and marketing teams who must prepare for a “second wave”.

Coronavirus reached unprecedented levels of news saturation in March, when it was mentioned in more than 80 per cent of stories published on some days according to data from Streem media monitoring.

For three months that figure slowly declined as life around Australia began to return to normal.

However, saturation levels have now increased for three successive weeks, and seem likely to again crack the 50 per cent barrier, where coronavirus is mentioned in more stories than not.

The number of coronavirus stories used in the 10 lead positions on major news homepages has also jumped by approximately 50 per cent in the past three weeks.

Streem media and partnerships lead Conal Hanna said communications teams should know the available media oxygen was fast dwindling.

“It’s time to think hard about whether to continue with any planned proactive earned media or whether it’s more strategic to pull back.

“Coronavirus reporting is currently at the same level as it was in early March, just before it really took off.

“With Melbourne returning into lockdown it’s inevitable we will see further increases in reporting, although it seems unlikely to again reach 80 per cent unless the lockdown becomes national.”

Marketing teams will also need to decide how to respond to the re-emergence of the virus.

In April, IAB Australia called on brands and agencies to stop blocking pandemic news from their digital campaigns as publishers struggled to monetise the big lift in audience engagement.

“Credible news and media organisations are seeing huge jumps in online traffic, but many brands are blocking advertising from appearing near content mentioning coronavirus,” said Gai Le Roy, CEO of IAB Australia.

“It’s essential that brands support news and journalism because with this content now so ubiquitous, without advertising support it will be simply unworkable and unsustainable for the production of news content.”

For context, bushfire coverage peaked at about 27 per cent of all news stories in January.

The analysis looked at all stories published in 19 leading national and metropolitan newspapers and news websites.

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