Is This The Start Of COVID-19 News Fatigue?

There are two bits of bad news for newspapers this morning. Just as the industry began to hammer home its message to #BackDontBlock stories containing coronavirus and COVID-19 keywords, interest in the news seems to be tapering off.

According to Havas Media Group research, after a spike in interest as we all first went into lockdown, the last two weeks have seen a 7% decrease in readership. At the same time, 59% are now saying they are streaming entertainment more. That's up 4% over the past two weeks. 

Where this media attention has gone is fairly clear. Around 3% of us are now reading more home and garden content and 1% of us are finding out more about cooking. Interestingly, this has shot up to 7% more interest in food and recipes among Gen Z. 

This is ironic for the news industry because it had been enjoying record levels of attention as the nation became curious about COVID-19 and then what the Government was going to do to prevent its spread.

The trouble was that too many brands were relying on brand-safety tools that stopped their name from being seen against content containing a trigger word such as "coronavirus" or "COVID-19."

Research from Peer39 suggests that as much as 40% of top-quality news content containing these trigger words is being blocked by over zealous brand-safety ad tech.

Hence, today, industry groups -- including IAB UK -- have urged brands to stop blocking their advertising from appearing next to the most popular news items. This follows the newspaper industry group Newsworks pleading last week for the tech to disengaged. The call came with the aforementioned #BackDontBlock call to arms.

So we come back to the ultimate irony here. Newspapers -- particularly local media -- are on their knees as print circulations plummet and attention goes digital. Yet when there's something everyone wants to read about, advertisers block it.

Should the calls for brand-safety rules to be bent to allow advertising against content reporting on a global pandemic, it just might come a little too late.

As Havas Group Media has discovered, we are experiencing the beginning of COVID-19 news fatigue. At first, we all wanted to know about the spread of the virus and then what the lockdown meant for us. Now we've on the second three-week stay-at-home order, interest is understandably waning. 

People are starting to supplement the news by reading up on how they can get the most out of being in their gardens.

When it's your one outside space you can rely on, people obviously want to make it look the best they can. That's probably more of an older generation thing -- but that's an assumption, and I could be wrong. But the figures suggesting Gen Z is flocking to find out more about home cooking and baking suggests they're in the kitchen, parents and older relatives are out planting and sewing in the garden. 

So, even if the trade bodies in news media and advertising are successful in unlocking more COVID-19 inventory, the bad news is that interest has already peaked.

That's not to say it might not peak again when Boris starts to outline how we get back to normal but for this current surge in interest, any relaxation has probably come too late.

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