The news and concerns around COVID-19 have brought forth increased anxiety and uncertainty in many Americans. In times like these, it is inevitable that people will look for distractions and a way to escape the stress caused by the impacts of this public health crisis. It is both an opportunity and an obligation for all types of media companies and content creators to be as consumer-centric as possible for both long-term growth and health.
Many people have written that the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s was partly due to people wanting an escape from The Great Depression. At that time, a ticket to the movies not only got you entrance to the film, but cartoons, a newsreel, and a B-feature. That was almost four hours of content for a nickel, which is a tremendous amount of value.
What are consumers looking for?
People will want positive distractions and up-to-date information. According to Google Trends, the terms “binge” and “free news” are at their all-time search highs this week. These search terms reveal that people are looking for content, and they want it now.
Recently, Disney announced that it would be releasing Frozen 2 on Disney+ earlier than expected and was praised for putting homebound parents first. While Disney was rightly applauded for its customer-first thinking, this is also a big opportunity to continue to grow its Disney+ subscription base.
NBC Universal announced that it was going to move some of its movies into earlier windows on PPV and digital downloads. Again, there is both a consumer and a business benefit to this; the consumer gets to watch the movie, and the studios mitigate some of the losses that are inevitable, as movie theatres are currently closed.
Some news organizations like the Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic have taken down the paywalls on news about COVID-19. While there is a definite note to serving the public interest by doing that, it also enables those brands to encourage subscriptions and promote other products like podcasts. There are also a number of brands that are starting pop-up newsletters on the subject, allowing them to capture long-term viewers in their databases.
What can media companies/content owners do?
By acknowledging the inevitable change in customer behaviors, brands can make customer-centric decisions that benefit them in the long term. Media companies should be thinking about how they can help service customers’ needs. Do you have additional content that may encourage people to spend time with your brand? Are there paywalls that can be temporarily lifted or free trials you could offer? If you are a film studio, you should be looking at distribution opportunities that allow people to watch at home. And if you are a news organization and your content is in the public interest, what can you do to simplify consumption?
Given that consumer behavior will continue to change, the quicker you can mine the data to understand and adapt to those changes, the better opportunity you have to serve customers’ interests. There will be a time-shifting of content consumption as people are home, and you are likely to see different devices used. What can enable the best content experience at the best time?
Content discovery for media companies will also change during this time. As such, media companies should shift media spend to ensure mid and lower funnel. Additionally, addressable media/TV and digital ad spends should be prioritized over out of home (OOH), print, and other traditional media activations. The more data you have on how people are consuming and discovering your content, the better informed your media decisions will be.
The content people consume and the devices on which they consume it should always tie back to your communications strategies. Those data and insights should inform your communications and the platforms you use. Know your audiences, and make sure your communication is as relevant as possible. People coming to you for an escape may not want a push alert about a news event, whereas news junkies will want information as quickly as possible. Layering in those filters will make sure people stay engaged.
The next few weeks will certainly be different, and this season will be one we remember for a long time. Anything that media companies and content owners can do to help provide information and a positive distraction will not only help now but have a long-term positive impact in the future.