May 5th, 2020

Weekends are a break from work and that damn virus

The COVID-19 media curve is flattening and there is significant drop off in media mentions at weekends

 

It has been impossible to avoid news about the coronavirus pandemic. All angles have been explored by the media: diagnosis and treatment, restrictions to our lifestyles, and the economical impact. Rarely has the media reported on one topic for such a length of time (bar terrorist acts, wars or elections). We expect to find that media fatigue setting in and journalists and audiences want to move on to something new. You may have experienced COVID-19 news fatigue yourself, avoiding watching TV or scrolling through Twitter to have a break.

Here, we explore the trends of COVID-19 stories in the media since the start of 2020. Using our media monitoring software Meltwater, we looked at the keywords ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’ in print & online and broadcast media. We tracked Media Exposure: the number of daily articles being written and stories being published containing either of these keywords. We started our search on 1st January 2020.

Here is the result.

 

You will notice the regular dips in the line graph, occurring every five plot points. You guessed it: these dips are at the weekend. For both online & print and broadcast, the drop off is -30 to -50% from the Friday to the Saturday. We can’t say for sure why this is, but we have a couple of suggestions:

  • Usually on the weekend, more light-hearted and positive news stories tend to be aired and published. A “good week-end news story” might feature a charity fundraising event or rescuing a pet from a wombat hole. Pandemics don’t really make for a good weekend news story.
  • Another possibility is that the volume of media stories is lower on the weekend, as staff are on their days off.

We cross-check with a keyword commonly used in English language: the preposition / conjunction word ‘for’. We do this to confirm whether the drop in COVID-19 mentions is due to less staff working on the weekend. If the drop in media mentions for this word matches that of ‘COVID-19’, the decrease is not because the media want positive weekend stories. It is simply due to skeleton staff on the weekend.

Is it just that staff are not working on weekends?

 

Ignore the Australia Day 2019 dip for broadcast media.

 

We see that the pattern is the similar as for the Media Exposure graph for ‘COVID-19’ / ‘coronavirus’. Every five days, there is a two-day dip, marking the weekend.

  • Print & online: The magnitude of the Friday-to-Saturday dip was more or less the same as for ‘COVID-19’ / ‘coronavirus’: -35 to -50%. This comparable drop for weekend Media Exposure confirms that fewer journalists and reporters are working on the weekend. Therefore, fewer stories are being published overall.
  • Broadcast: The difference between Media Exposure from Friday to Saturday was between -8% and -20%. This is much lower than that for ‘COVID-19’ / ‘coronavirus’. Could this indicate that TV/radio avoid this type of news story, favouring more positive, feel-good stories?

We conduct a final experiment to demonstrate how significant the media conversations about COVID-19 have been. We look into the 2019 Australian Federal Election. The search looks for articles containing ‘Bill Shorten’ or ‘Scott Morrison’ in the run up to the Federal Election. Is COVID-19 more on Australia’s mind than the election of their own leaders?

2019 Federal Election

 

The answer is YES. The 2019 election leaders were no match for COVID-19 in the media. The y-axis of the Media Exposure graph only reaches 20k compared to 50k for ‘COVID-19’ / ‘coronavirus’!

To close off this blog post, we noted that it looks like the COVID-19 Media Exposure curve has flattened. This means different healthcare have a better chance of publishing. It is therefore time to share meaningful data or updates with media from now. There is definitely a desire from newsrooms to fill the weekend with positive sentiment and human interest stories. Sure, there are fewer reporters working on the weekend and the drop in media volumes correlates with their working rosters.

A take-home message here is to save your positive news stories for the weekend news bulletins. On the weekends in the early months of 2020, the media gives us a break from this unprecedented event.

 

It is also a great time to start sharing your health news stories that aren’t related to COVID-19. Check out this earned media checklist to see if you are ready to go.

 

Sign up to our weekly analyses and healthcare industry articles by getting in touch at: [email protected]

 

Issues management matters: how to prepare for a crisis

Issues management matters: how to prepare for a crisis

May 19th, 2022