Media consumption survey four: coronavirus fatigue creeps in

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It has been all change in the UK, and as lockdown eases and rumors of a second peak swirl, we thought it was a good time to check in with the nation and explore how their media consumption habits are evolving.

News consumption falls to pre COVID-levels

Though the top types of publications that Brits are reading at least once a week remained the same (national news, followed by local news and thirdly international news), the percentages of people who reported to be reading at least once per week has not risen for the first time since our analysis began back in March. 46% of Brits said they are reading the national news at least once per week, which was a return to the level found in survey one back in March, however, local news dropped to 40% and international news 29%, both of which are lower than the levels in March. With that said, when you consider 46% is over 24 million* Brits, news consumption is still high overall.

Latest survey Survey three Survey two Survey one
National news 46% 53% 52% 46%
Local news 40% 46% 49% 45%
International news 29% 35% 38% 34%


Alongside this fall in frequency of news engagement, we also saw the number of Brits who said they have been reading these publications more than they did before lockdown drop lower than the number taken from our first survey. Initially, we saw 48% state that they were reading the news more than usual, rising to 56% and then 58% – this percentage now sits at almost 2 in 5 (39%).

The most dramatic fall came in those aged 55 and over. In our last survey, 50% of this demographic admitted that they were reading the news more frequently than before lockdown, this percentage now sits at 26%. We also saw those aged 16-34 drop off, though it’s worth noting that over half (52%) of those in this age band still say that they are reading the news more than before lockdown.

Motivation for consumption remains the same

Once again, it was updates on the Coronavirus situation that was the primary motivator for Brits reading the news more (though this did also fall to its lowest level at 61%, down from 75% in the last survey, 80% in survey two and 77% in survey one). These stats further cement the suggestion that we made in our last post, that the UK public is now suffering from Corona fatigue. This suggestion is further strengthened by the fact that we saw increases in those reading the news for alternative reasons such as having more free time and seeking out “good” news:

Latest Survey Survey three Survey two Survey one
Because they have more spare time 52% 45% 43% 22%
Because they want some good news 27% 24% 23% 20%
Because people are sharing more news stories with them 18% 19% 21% 21%


Why are people reading the news less?

The percentage of people reading the news less has risen from 10% in the last survey, to 14% in this wave. Based on our assumption around fatigue, we directly asked respondents if they were fed up with hearing about Corona, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost a third (31%) said that they were.

Alternative motivations changed rank and prevalence from the last survey – most interestingly, the percentage of people who find the news scary fell to only 11%, again hinting at a national fatigue towards the virus. It is also notable that anxiety induced by the news became the most frequently selected option behind respondents being fed up of hearing about Corona. This may be induced by the rumors of a second winter peak and the impending redundancies following the end of furlough in October.

Latest Survey Survey Three Survey Two Survey One
Because the news is so negative 22% 33% 23% 30%
Because the news makes them anxious 23% 32% 32% 27%
Because I do not trust what I read 20% 21% 21% 24%
Because I do not have enough time 19% 21% 19% 22%
Because they find the news scary 11% 15% 22% 25%

What do Brits want to see in light of corona fatigue?

There is no doubt that nearly five months into lockdown the weight of both the virus and impending financial strife weighs heavily on the British public. As a result of this, what we have seen is the British public suggesting that they want the news agenda to broaden, with the top type of content we want to receive most being stories about the rest of world (36%), followed by information about our wider economy (36%) and other topical angles (36%).

We have also seen a fall in the number of Brits wanting relief in the form of heart-warming stories about human kindness (32% down from 41%) and more general info around coronavirus (26%, down from 34%).

Latest Survey Survey Three Survey Two Survey One
Stories about the rest of the world 36% 38% 42% 32%
Information on the economy 36%

Topical news stories 36%


It seems then, that the British public is fatigued from the amount of information that we have had to consume around coronavirus over the past few months – which is not surprising. From here we can also conclude that for Brits to stay engaged, the news agenda needs to broaden and continue to be stimulating. Perhaps then, it is time for brands and companies across the board to tentatively begin to move back towards the traditional content that they produce, in order to satisfy consumer desire for distraction.


*46% of 53,811,371 (2017 ONS 16+ population) = 24,753,230

The first round of research was conducted by Censuswide, with a sample of 2,001 nationally representative respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 20.03.2020 – 23.03.2020.

The second round of research was conducted by Censuswide, with a sample of 2,036 nationally representative respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 27.03.2020 – 30.03.2020.

The third round of research was conducted by Censuswide, with a sample of 2,009 nationally representative respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 11.05.2020 – 12.05.2020.

The fourth round of research was conducted by Censuswide, with a sample of 2,000 nationally representative respondents aged 16+ in the UK between 15.07.2020 – 16.07.2020.

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