Alex Lewis
Alex Lewis

Daily life has dramatically changed over the past few weeks, and Americans have turned to digital platforms in record numbers to stay informed about the latest news.

Online news readership has soared 70 percent compared to one month ago, a Kivvit analysis of U.S. news publisher data found. We also learned that newsreaders are spending 57 percent more time on stories featuring “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” in the headline.

But to access the ever-changing news, people are largely using the same methods they typically have: mobile devices and a mix of channels, including social media, search engines and browsing news websites. Two behavior changes worth noting, however, are that people are using desktops/laptops and clicking on links shared with them via text/email at a slightly higher rate than usual.

Zach Silber
Zach Silber

Our data also tells us the rise in digital engagement has created an opportunity to reach these audiences.

According to Kivvit’s own Facebook advertising tracking—which collectively represents 33.3 million impressions delivered to 22.8 million people between December 1 and March 20—client campaigns are continuing to outperform industry- and firm-wide benchmarks despite the dramatic changes we’ve seen since the arrival of COVID-19.

Two vital measures of ad effectiveness and efficiency—click-through rate and cost-per-click—have been stronger in March than they were in December and January, underscoring that COVID-19 has not impaired digital advertising performance. These indicators have also been consistently strong across other social platforms, display, video and search engine marketing.

A plurality of internet users (37.3 percent) believe companies should continue to advertise as normal, while 35 percent do not have an opinion either way, according to a Global Web Index survey of U.S. internet users conducted last week.

Although there is not widespread consumer opposition to organizations continuing to advertise, it’s crucial that advertisers conduct a thorough analysis of campaigns to ensure messaging and calls to action are relevant and sensitive to today’s new normal.

For example, Google announced on March 18 that it is reevaluating advertising creative that depicts interactions like handshakes, hugs, and high-fives since social distancing is an important tactic in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Even with the world changing around us in unprecedented ways, the dramatic increase in digital engagement means many awareness and branding campaigns can expect to be more effective, affordable and efficient by refocusing on the fundamentals, which have largely remained unchanged: content and targeting must continue to be tailored to the audiences that organizations are trying to reach, and a mobile-optimized, multi-channel approach remains the best practice.

We will continue to update our analysis as data becomes available.


Alex Lewis is a digital principal and Zach Silber is the chief innovation officer at Kivvit.