The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the news cycle and Americans’ news consumption habits in more ways than one. If there’s a silver lining to be found in the outbreak, however, an argument could be made that the crisis has turned America’s attention locally.
According to a new report by consumer market research agency Horowitz Research, the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a spike in local news consumption, as well as a renewed interest in supporting local businesses and paying attention to local politics.
Horowitz’s report, which sought to gauge consumer sentiment during the COVID-19 crisis, found that nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of those surveyed reported consuming more local news in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Incredibly, this includes 38 percent who said they weren’t news watchers before the crisis hit.
Nearly a third of Americans (29 percent) also claimed they’re now consuming more local public radio and local/regional newspapers.
This surge in local news consumers is even more pronounced among younger respondents (those between the ages of 18 and 34), more than half of whom (53 percent) said they’ve increased their local news viewership since the crisis began.
An April study by analytics firm NewsWhip similarly discovered that local newsrooms and news outlets have been among the media companies most responsible for producing COVID-19-related news content resulting in the highest amount of online user engagement.
According to NewsWhip’s report, local news sites such as dallasnews.com, wsmv.com, wcvb.com and wndu.com were among the publishers to produce articles driving the highest user engagement in March, alongside major news media companies such as nbc.com, travelandleisure.com, rollingstone.com and npr.org.
Local sites such as oregonlive.com and wfla.com also went head-to-head with national and international news outlets (cnn.com, independent.co.uk and cnbc.com, among others) as the most engaged articles involving the coronavirus’ impact on brands.
|A NewsWhip study found that some of the online COVID-19-related content that resulted in the highest levels of user engagement in March actually came from local news outlets.|
The Horowitz study also discovered that COVID-19 has caused many Americans to throw their support behind local businesses, many of whom have shuttered or been otherwise financially crushed by statewide shut-down orders in addition to facing ongoing competition from national e-commerce giants like Amazon.
An overwhelming majority of those surveyed (86 percent) believe COVID-19 will have an impact on local businesses. Half of respondents (50 percent) said they plan to make an effort to support local businesses to help keep them afloat, and an additional quarter (25 percent) reported currently doing so.
Finally, Horowitz’s study found that Americans’ newfound interest in all things local has resulted—or perhaps, is partially a result of—changed perceptions regarding state and local government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily coronavirus press conferences have become a ratings hit and have redirected our collective attention to local leaders. As a result, respondents said they’re now more likely to hold positive views of their state/local governments’ preparedness for the crisis, and more than half (59 percent) said they now have a positive perception of how their local/state governments have handled the crisis to date, compared to only 44 percent who said the same about the federal government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Horowitz study surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults online between March 26 and March 30. It’s one installment in the agency’s ongoing “Bi-Weekly Tracking Study,” which seeks to track changes in consumer behaviors as well as provide research as the COVID-19 crisis unfolds.