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Research / Insights on current and emerging industry topics

Evaluating audience engagement post-pandemic

December 8, 2021 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

The Covid-19 pandemic drove a surge in digital media usage. However, as consumers slowly return to work and to everyday life outside the home, digital media consumption been impacted. New research from GWI, Connecting the Dots, finds that the gradual shift to our pre-pandemic habits has downshifted digital consumption.  

However, GWI sees the present as an interim period. For now, it remains unclear whether consumers will return to their previous content consumption levels — or perhaps reach new heights. This report offers an early look at consumer’s media behavior and attitudes as they slowly resume post-pandemic life.

Consumer attention serves as a commodity in today’s media marketplace. The attention metric took on new importance during the pandemic. Marketers and advertisers seek digital properties that offer large viewer and reader data that exhibit high levels of time spent. However, the attention economy concept as currency is only part of the advertising equation. GWI believes understanding consumer attitudes and feelings is a necessary part of the calculation and offers insight into their behavior.

Multiple streaming services add up

Television consumption increased during the pandemic and so did consumer spending on subscription services. Though GWI’s research finds that some consumers think they spent too much money. Over one-third (34%) of consumers state that TV services are too expensive in Q2 2021 compared to 27% in Q2 2020, an increase of 26%. In addition, in May 2021, a quarter of consumers were thinking of canceling or already canceling a streaming service.

Gaming grabs consumer attention

The pandemic ignited a period of exceptional growth for gaming. GWI cites a Google Trends’ analysis that compares the popularity of video gaming to a TV program, a theatrical release, and a new album release. The analysis tracks the popularity of Animal Crossing, a social simulation video game series, Tiger King, a popular Netflix program, Tenet, a new movie release, and Folklore, Taylor Swift’s album release — from January 5, 2020 to September 27, 2020. Tiger King, Tenet, and Folklore each had short-lived peaks, while the popularity of Animal Crossings, after an initial peak, maintains relatively steady interest.

Gaming is a strong contender for consumer attention, especially among Generation Z. According to GWI’s survey in Q2 2021, more than half (54%) of Zers are interested in gaming compared to 42% in Q2 2020. In contrast, Gen Z’s interest in television declined from 44% in Q2 2020 to 42% in Q2 2021.

Audio is screen-free

GWI’s report also shows audio entertainment, including streaming music and podcasts, is an integral part of consumers’ lives, especially when at home and during exercising. Interestingly, based on Q2 2021 data, streaming music is the only media type outperforming its Covid peaks that took place during lockdown.

GWI suggests that one of the reasons for audio’s success is that it doesn’t compete for screen time. Audio streaming offers an escape from screen fatigue. Using different screens all day may boost usage of audio media at the expense of visual media platforms.

Attention retention

As out-of-home activities become the norm once again, media channels need to think about re-engaging consumers. Transitioning from a pandemic mindset to a new normal is not easy for anyone. Media companies need to rethink their success and sales metrics and move beyond consumer attention. Offering quality content, positive experiences, a relatable community, opportunities of fandom, and possibilities of escapism, can present new opportunities of engagement.

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