Australians are increasingly concerned about the impact of COVID-19 and are spending nearly twice as much time online in search of answers, according to data released today.

Online news consumption nearly doubled last week compared to the four previous weeks, according to Nielsen’s latest Digital Content Ratings. Overall time online is up 30 per cent in March compared to February.

Source: Nielsen

Collectively, Australians spent nearly 2 million hours in one day looking at online content which falls into Nielsen’s “News” category.

And with more and more people confined to their homes, desktop usage growth significantly outpaced mobile usage growth, an anomaly according to Nielsen, but one that is expected to continue as more lockdown measures come into force.

Concern grows

Separate data from Kantar suggests Australians’ concerns over the financial and social impact of COVID-19 are also rising quickly.

A comparison of 1000 person surveys between 6-9 March and 20-23 March shows the number of “overwhelmingly concerned” people has risen from 16 per cent to 45 per cent.

64 per cent of Australians are worried coronavirus will be worse than the economic depression compared to just 19 per cent a week ago. 

While the government has faced criticism over its mixed messaging over the last month, Kantar’s data suggest the social distancing message may finally be getting through.

60 per cent of Australians cancelled domestic travel last week, up from 15 per cent in early March. Kantar says three quarters of people have reduced time in public places, even before tougher lockdown rules came into effect this week.

Brands must respond: Kantar

Kantar is urging brands to ensure they are transparent with consumers, who they say will judge organisations on how they handle the current pandemic.

“Aussies want to be assured that the brands they choose are transparent, trustworthy and in control of their supply chains,” said Jonathan Sinton, chief commercial officer, Kantar Australia.

“The way brands deal with the crisis now may also influence consumers in the future. People expect brands to deliver real value, act responsibly and do right by the community, including their employees. While these findings show the extent to which coronavirus is affecting people’s daily lives, we recognise that it’s a rapidly changing event. As the crisis intensifies and continues to spread, people’s attitudes and concerns will change just as quickly.” 

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