Canadians are consuming media at a record pace during self-isolation according to new data from research firm Comscore. The data also shows pronounced spikes in the consumption of entertainment—particularly music—and spiritual content.
The report, which compares Canadians’ media habits from March 9-15 with a benchmark period of Dec. 30-Jan. 5, found that engagement with digital channels has increased markedly as the COVID crisis has unfolded.
“Canadians are flocking online with significant growth in news entities, instant messaging, social media, government resources, entertainment, music destinations, video, and financial websites,” says Comscore’s senior vice-president, Bryan Segal.
“This presents a significant opportunity [for brands] to reach Canadians who are highly engaged and looking for relevant and timely content. It comes down to delivering the right message, at the right time, in front of the right audience, in brand safe environments.”
According to Comscore, the aggregate number of daily unique visitors (UV) to websites within the general news and information category has increased by 19% during the pandemic, accompanied by a 19% increase in visits, a 10% increase in minutes spent on sites and a 22% increase in pages.
The rise in interest in the politics sub-category is also particularly notable, with visits rising 55%, minutes spent increasing 86%, and pages up 36%.
Social media usage is also way up from the benchmark period (see chart below), as consumers look to stay connected with the outside world during this period of self-isolation.
The use of e-mail and instant messaging services has also risen sharply during the period, with the aggregate daily unique visitors for the latter rising by 27% and minutes increasing by 36%.
Music sites, meanwhile, have seen an increase of 32% in aggregate daily UV, accompanied by a 33% increase in visits, and a 31% increase in minutes during this time, while consumption of spiritual content has also increased in terms of minutes (+27%), visits (+14%) and aggregate daily UVs (16%).
Visits to government sites have also increased—with minutes spent rising 76% and pages 85%—and Comscore predicts those numbers will continue to rise in tandem with the rise of COVID cases.
Comscore’s U.S. data, meanwhile, shows a 425% increase to government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization, and a 671% increase in mobile visits to those sites.
U.S. visits to retailer sites such as Amazon, Walmart and Target have been steadily climbing since the early part of the year, peaking at a high of 779 million during the study period.
Comscore also recently introduced a series of contextual targeting filters specifically aimed at protecting brands from having their advertising appear adjacent to COVID-related content if they wish.
“This new protection gives advertisers the ability to fine-tune their brand safety applications based on risk tolerance amid a rapidly evolving pandemic,” it said in a statement.
The new capability enables brands to navigate the COVID news cycle, while permitting what it calls “nuanced control.” That might mean that while ads might appear adjacent to educational content, they would not appear next to stories about COVID-related deaths or similar content.
The release notes that Comscore’s contextual engine determined that between 22% and 30% of all ad impressions in a recent week were served alongside content detected as containing coronavirus and related epidemic themes. Another leading brand safety filter, crime and violence, registered between 2-5% of ad impressions during the same time frame.