Crisis communications: Australian media consumption during COVID-19

History has shown us that media consumption from trusted news outlets tends to spike during key events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent bushfires and around major elections. With most Australians isolating at home our desire to be kept updated while also entertained is stronger than ever.

As talk of the government easing restrictions increases, Australians are changing their focus from regular public health updates to the longer economic impacts and what happens next.

The shift from crisis mode to recovery planning will change our media habits as we look for inspiration on our next domestic holiday, ideas to entertain the kids outside of the family backyard, or which favourite restaurant we’ll visit first. We may also need some financial advice on how to pay for our new freedom with more than 700,000 Australians out of work.

But, which mediums should you consider and what stories should brands be telling? We’ve collated some recent stats to keep in mind when planning the priorities for brand communications.

  • Australia’s top 10 news sites have seen an average increase in readers of 57%, according to the latest Nielsen Digital Content Ratings with the time spent online more than doubling.
  • It was rare for any Australian news outlet to reach more than 10 million but seven of the 10 sites all reported audiences above 11 million. We’ll keep you updated if this figure remains steady or returns to pre-pandemic levels.
  • The pandemic has also led to a steady rise in TV and catch-up viewing according to ThinkTV, the industry body for commercial broadcasters.
  • The number of Australians watching TV across the day has increased 22% per cent, with catch-up TV (BVOD) up 34%. Audience numbers during primetime news bulletins has increased 30% over the same period.
  • The pandemic has caused Commercial Radio Australia to pause ratings for the sector but GFK reports seven out of 10 Australians are listening to as much or more radio, with a clear shift to talk formats and the national broadcaster.
  • Our changing habits has also seen one in 10 Australians listen to more podcasts, news and politics podcasts accounting for a third of those being listened to.
  • The shift to online news has had the biggest impact on newspapers and magazines with key players shunting print production.
  • NewsCorp is rumoured to have hired consultants to look at restructuring its newspaper business (up to 30 titles are apparently at risk) according to its main rival, with Bauer Media making 70 staff redundant this week and temporarily shunting print production of some magazine titles.


The sudden spike in media consumption experienced at the start of the lockdown will begin to ease as life starts to return to normal, or a new normal.

We’re not free of restrictions just yet so they key for brands is to continuing sharing stories that connect audiences and provide comfort. Yes, we may want to keep up to date with the latest developments, but we also want some light relief during these trying times.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to put your consumers first and the needs of your brand second so when the pandemic is finally over you are seen as trusted and compassionate.

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