What Media Consumption Tells Us About Post-Pandemic Marketing

Jonah Malin


With vaccine developments providing a somewhat clearer timeline for pandemic recovery, many industries are optimistic about what comes next.

Marketing is not one of them.

If anything, the rest of 2021 is going to be more volatile than what we’ve experienced. The crumbling of third-party cookies has started. Events are still up in the air. Organizations are dealing with a mass exodus of marketers, journalists, and writers in favor of personal platforms. 

My approach to everything in the marketing world––email, print ads, social, blogging––is constantly adjusting to new user behaviors. 

And until recently, I’ve been flying relatively blind. 

Fortunately, YouGov just released a timely report, “International Media Consumption 2021: Is There a New Normal?”, overviewing the massive shifts that have taken place over the past twelve months. By examining the different media trends, we can start to make sense of how marketing has changed and where it’s headed beyond 2021. 

Here are a few of the key findings:

Physical spending declined — overall online spend increased

This was an obvious outcome of a pandemic requiring social distancing and stay-at-home orders. But e-commerce is now the lifeblood of brands.

For marketers, it has never been more important to understand the online user journey. Especially in retail, food and beverage, and other product-based organizations. 

It’s not just online shopping — think about the investments we will be making in digital technologies and infrastructure.

Even service-based businesses like marketing agencies are adjusting without tradeshows and in-person events. We used to be able to run drip campaigns targeting individuals we’d met in person and had a conversation with. Now, we need to make sure our website and marketing automation tools are perfectly in-sync to handle leads. 

A story of decline for radio 

AM/FM satellite radio took a massive hit as people stopped commuting.

The average number of daily AM/FM radio listeners dropped by eight percentage points, falling from 72% to 64%. Meanwhile, the proportion of people listening to satellite radio each day also fell — from 38% to 32%.

Listening as a strategy is still important for marketers. But the next phase is going to be brands supporting streaming services or micro/emerging podcasters. 

Podcasts moment continues 

Yearly podcast listenership rose from 39% in 2019 to 43% in 2020. News and politics is currently the most listened-to genre of podcast among Americans, followed by comedy and music. 

This is an important trend for media buyers and advertisers — why run a print ad when you can pay a trusted podcaster to talk about your product? Or better, organically mix it into the conversation. 

Consumers are now empowered with the ability to skip through television ads on streaming services or turn down the volume on YouTube ads. Podcasting offers a far more authentic, human, and even welcomed approach to product promotion. 

TikTok isn’t a fad

I’ll admit, I told all my non-marketing friends that TikTok wouldn’t outlast the pandemic. It seemed like the perfect storm of highschoolers locked in their homes, desperately needing something to do. 

But TikTok usage continues to surge in many unpredictable categories. Brands like Chiptole are using TikTok for mini commercials. The Washington Post, NBA, NFL, and other community-focused organizations have latched onto the short-form content in a variety of highly-engaging ways. 

Plus, overall usage has trended upward among all age groups, even the post-34 set.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3EUdlT_0Yw7g5df00Screenshot of YouGov Report

Keep in mind that these reports start at age 18, meaning a significant segment of TikTok’s user base is not reflected in the data. 

Print publications are on life support 

I work for a brand and marketing agency that started out as a design firm for publications. So, we’ve had many conversations about print versus digital and what’s happening with magazine readership. 

As mentioned above, The Washington Post has jumped onto TikTok with 35.2M likes. The New Yorker and many smaller independent publications are finding success with podcasts. Association magazines are building personalized newsletter communities for members. 

Not every publication has been so innovative. Despite the 24/7 news cycle going on, digital magazine readership declined from an average of 44% in 2019 to 34% in 2020.

If print publications can lean into video and audio to share more personality-driven or informational content, we could see a total reinvention of the medium. However, as the report details, time is running out. 

What this means for your marketing team

Covid has clearly altered the marketing landscape. New channels emerged. Old channels sputtered. Some media segments thrived. Others have been gutted. But will it last?

In short, yes. 

Entertainment brands converted their traditional media to digital streaming services. They aren’t going back.

The decline in radio listenership was inevitable regardless of commuter trends. Print news and magazine readership was declining long before the pandemic. 

We simply accelerated to the destination marketing was already heading towards. 

Media consumption shows us there will never be a “new normal.” The status quo in marketing is gone. Adapt or be forgotten. 

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I am a content strategist, career advice author, and contributing writer based in Washington, DC. Join me as I explore health & wellness, productivity, philosophy, and life. Find me @Beyond Definition // Medium // Ladders // jonahmalin.com/barelyweekly

Washington, DC

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