Making sense of the Digital surge during COVID-19 crisis

With people confined to their homes due to COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown in the country, Digital has emerged as a prime media to consume content, along with Television. 

On the other hand, print media is facing its biggest challenge, having to fight the perception that newspapers are carriers of the virus and hawkers refusing to deliver the paper. Adgully has been extensively covering the COVID-19 impact on the newspaper industry

Digital comes to the forefront 

Digital has become one of the main choices for users amidst the lockdown. Whether it is social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook or OTT apps like Netflix, Hotstar or Amazon Prime, more and more people are consuming content on digital. 

Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner & National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide
Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner & National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide

Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner & National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide, observed, “From a user time spend perspective, there has been increase in content consumption on these platforms. Due to the current lockdown, news content across platform has been viewed consistently. From a brand perspective, followers are engaging with the content that is sensitive to the current lockdown situation.” 

Puneet Singhvi, President, Network18
Puneet Singhvi, President, Network18

Puneet Singhvi, President, Network18, added here, “The social media platforms have seen a spike both in the frequency of access and the time spent during the period. Utility, information and staying connected on these times are the key drivers.” 

Digital vs Print 

While the Digital Vs Print debate has been done to death, the topic has reared its head again as print industry looks to assert its significance in these tough times. With newspapers not accessible to people amid the lockdown, digital platforms have become the number one source for networking, entertainment and information for most people. Television, especially news channels too have seen a escalation in viewership as more and more people tune in to keep themselves updated on the latest developments. 

With the growth in the eyeballs, advertiser interest is also seen shifting towards digital. As Singhvi remarked, “Advertisers are looking at Digital far more favourably under these circumstances. There are new categories of advertisers that are coming on board, but it is too early to say that there is a shift of advertising. Digital has definitely gained significant ground and even the newspaper companies are very actively using their respective digital channels to distribute e-papers.” 

On the other hand, talking about ad spends on digital, Nambiar said, “There has been no such change. The ad spends have neither increased nor decreased. The content that is being placed on social platforms is promoted. However, TV promo has increased their visibility on digital platforms.” 

Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO, AdLift
Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO, AdLift

Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO, AdLift, opined, “The unprecedented increase in traffic on digital platforms due to the lockdown has forced brands to re-think their marketing strategies and revisit their budgets. Since we are currently on day 8 of the 21-day lockdown, it might be too early to predict a shift from print to digital advertising. There might be shift if the lockdown is extended beyond 21 days.” 

Print loyalist or Digital loyalist? 

While digital is leading the game with immediate and timely news updates, there is also growth in fake news circulating on digital media. 

Speaking on the growth surge, Singhvi said, “The digital news fronts are already seeing a surge of new audience on their platforms, driven by a need to keep up with updates and developments around the situation in their cities. This is true especially for a media company like ours who have a backing of the largest news network combined with massive digital reach. Over this, the shift to digital from print will only increase as a part of evolving user habit.” 

Along similar lines, Puri said, “We are in the initial days of the lockdown, but we have already seen a huge surge on digital mediums. In case of an extended lockdown, we will see new users for sure, not only for personal usage but also for professional interactions. There are a lot of industries that are shifting towards digital platforms due to the current situation. So, there are high chances that even print loyalists might shift to digital.” 

However, Nambiar sees print loyalists remaining firm once the lockdown dust settles. He noted, “Yes, there is a high possibility that people will get used to getting their content on digital. However, loyalist of print will always be loyalist. They will consume news content on digital more. They will consume content on both media when this lockdown is over.” 

Goldee Patnaik, Head of Marketing, itel Business unit
Goldee Patnaik, Head of Marketing, itel Business unit

Enumerating the advantages that digital media has, Goldee Patnaik, Head of Marketing, itel Business unit, said, “Undoubtedly, digital medium reaches much faster and is cost effective too as compared to the print medium. Further, authenticity of digitally led information is questionable, you really need to be sure about the source of information and its authenticity, but it is not the case with print medium. Hence, a print loyalist will always stick to print in terms of authenticity and type of content. Digital mediums will witness unique users and great traction across social media platforms as people prefer digital news medium than anything else.” 

The ball is in Digital’s hands 

New innovations and opportunities created by digital platforms will not only attract new users, but also advertisers. New trends on social media are on the rise. Virtual communications and Virtual parties have picked up pace as Indians have been in the quarantine mode. Hashtags like #NetflixParty are trending on social media. 

Even celebrities like Jacqueline Fernandez, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor have put up various videos showcasing their activities amidst lockdown. Celebrities like Shilpa Shetty have put up videos of their Yoga routine and hashtags like #Safehands and #homefitness have gone trending. It doesn’t take much for a brand to leverage this and turn it into a fun influencer marketing campaign. 

Kartik Johari, Vice-President, Nobel Hygiene
Kartik Johari, Vice-President, Nobel Hygiene

Also, an app called ‘House Party’ has been doing the rounds which allows people to play games like Ludo together on the platform. Users can also interact with each other while playing games. While the app has no ads as of now, there is definitely an opportunity here for advertisers and brands as the app grows in popularity. Talking about innovations in these times, Kartik Johari, Vice-President, Nobel Hygiene, said, “Absolutely. Digital has always been a platform where new formats keep coming up. The attention span of people has reduced over time and now people are restricted to their homes. Getting new innovations will definitely break the monotony for the user. Content on digital gets saturated quickly and hence this is the time to keep audiences engaged with new content and innovations.” 

We are headed for some interesting times in terms of content, innovations and consumer behaviour amidst the COVID-19 crisis. While we see digital and TV engagement increasing, it will be interesting how print bounces back.


Also Read:

COVID-19 impact: Print media battling on many fronts

Global business leaders join the fight against COVID-19


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