Australian media has COVID-19 fatigue: now is the time to pitch your medical story

From an all-time high on 24th March, media coverage of COVID-19 is rapidly declining, meaning there is space for good, visual medical news stories.


COVID-19 has been in our newspapers and news bulletins for over four months now. We have all suddenly become ‘infectious diseases experts’ and have an opinion on the virus.

In Australia, as cases of the virus decline, so too is media coverage. There is now greater capacity to tell non-coronavirus medical stories.


COVID-19 makes the headlines


A London Agency analysis from a few weeks ago found that media coverage on COVID-19 dips on the weekends, but is overall coverage dwindling as well?

We looked at our media monitoring software Meltwater to get a sense of the direction in which the volume of COVID-19 coverage is going. Is it going up, now that we are often talking about vaccines and treatments, or is it going down, as the novelty has worn off and we are getting tired of hearing about it?

The graph below shows the number of daily articles published containing the word “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in the title of the print / online article.


The peak for COVID-19 coverage was 24th March 2020, with more than 1,000 pieces of print / online news published in Australia and New Zealand. It is also clear that the number of daily news articles is slowly going down.


COVID-19 is part of everyday life


Now, we compare this curve with that for the number of print / online news stories containing the word “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in any part of the article (not just in the title). This makes the search broader and means that stories that aren’t 100% virus-focussed will be captured.


The blue curve represents the Media Exposure for the number of news stories with “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” in the title. It is dwarfed by this new green Media Exposure curve.

Although “COVID-19” might not be in the title of a news story, it has become our everyday and is an essential part of the conversation. The virus is somewhat a normal part of our vocabulary. All roads lead to coronavirus and for the past months, there has been only one story. Even stories that aren’t about coronavirus have a COVID-19 dimension. No wonder we’re all feeling so sick of it.


Print / Online vs. Broadcast 


Finally, we look at print / online (green) versus broadcast TV and radio (orange) for stories containing the keywords “COVID-19” or “coronavirus”.


The volume of news stories for broadcast is lower than for print / online, with a gentle decrease in daily media mentions of the virus.


Media fatigue: is it just a COVID-19 thing? 


Media fatigue has never been so severe, however we see it in other areas: it occurs around elections, Christmas and Awareness Days.

A possible example: it is World Cancer Day. Health reporter and editors receive dozens of news stories about cancer the week before. Although there is an expectation they will report on this event, they could be experiencing media fatigue towards the topic. This means that the likelihood of your news story on cancer being published can be lessened, unfortunately.

The London Agency team conducted an unscientific experiment to monitor the media for COVID-19 stories. For four days, we watched the 5pm and 6pm news, and reviewed The Age and the Herald Sun to observe the prevalence of the virus.

The big medical story that week was the link between Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic illnesses such as cancer and dementia, which was covered by all the outlets we reviewed on Monday 25th May. We found that the Herald Sun was reporting less on COVID-19 than The Age. A symptom of COVID-19 media fatigue?

The good news is that cute animals are back. Some adorable koalas and wombats took centre stage of our newspapers.


Most importantly, we noted that there was room for more medical and health news stories, as there were gaps in the evening news bulletins on Wednesday 27th May and Thursday 28th May.

Here is a summary of the results. The percentages represent the number of COVID-19 stories relative to the total number of news stories. 


Monday 25th May:

  • The Age: 42% of all news stories – Health story: Type 2 Diabetes heightens cancer risk.
  • Herald Sun: 20% – Health stories: Mother of All IVF Fights, Type 2 Diabetes patient alarm, Childcare Flu Shot, Op Ed by Professor Jonathan Shaw from Baker IDI “Shining A Light On Dark Shadow Of Diabetes”.
  • 9 News: 30% – Health story: Type 2 Diabetes patients.
  • 10 News First: 43% – Health story: Type 2 Diabetes patients. 

Tuesday 26th May:

  • The Age: 45% – Health story: Ex-cop with terminal cancer wins fight for WorkSafe insurance to pay for his PTSD assistance dog expenses.
  • Herald Sun: 30% – Health story: Cancer trial in dogs could have benefit to treat humans with sarcomas.
  • 9 News: 43% – Health story: Human trials of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.
  • 10 News First: 42%.

Wednesday 27th May:

  • The Age: 42%.
  • Herald Sun: 37%.
  • 9 News: 21% – Health story: Second wave may not be COVID-19, but mental illness.
  • 10 News First: 53% – Health story: Flu vaccine boost (Seqirus), Eradicating headlice for good.

Thursday 28th May:

  • The Age: 45% – Drop in number of people going for flu shots.*
  • Herald Sun: 35% – High flu jab numbers, Drop in visits to the GP reported by Leukaemia Foundation and Cancer Council.
  • 9 News: 33% – GSK in trouble for breaching Australian consumer law with Voltaren®.  
  • 10 News First: 29%.

There is a gap for good, visual health news stories as COVID-19 news slows down and media fatigue kicks in.

If you are planning on conducting earned media activities for your brand or disease area of interest, we suggest doing it now. Journalists want to work on something different, and the public wants to hear something new. Refer to this London Agency earned media checklist to assess whether you are ready to go.

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