2020 has featured an unusually high concentration of major events that have dominated the news. The first quarter included mounting tensions with Iran, President Trump’s impeachment trial, and the untimely death of Kobe Bryant. The second quarter focused on the rise of Coronavirus, economic uncertainty and national protests about racial injustice. The result has been a significant, sustained increase in the consumption of news, including in mobile apps. In this report, Flurry takes a look at news consumption patterns in mobile news applications across the first six months of 2020.
Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, sees app usage on 1 million mobile applications across all major app categories, with a broad cohort of news applications. For this analysis, we measure daily app sessions in the United States. Included in our app sample is a broad set of news apps that cover politics, international relations, and current events. We removed any apps that cover entertainment news. Let’s take a look.
In the above graph, we chart daily news app sessions for the first six months of both 2019 and 2020. 2019 is displayed in light blue, and 2020 in dark blue. We divide the year-to-date into three periods: Politics, Coronavirus and Protests.
The months from January to early March 2020 were marked by a number of news spikes that exceeded news app consumption during the same period in 2019. These included a conflict between the United States and Iran, as well as the first Democratic Presidential Primary races. Additionally, news of Kobe Bryant’s death dominated the news in the last week of January. Despite these spikes, the average number of daily news sessions during this period increased only by 3% compared to the same time period in 2019.
Beginning in March, corresponding with the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, we observe that news consumption steps up considerably. COVID-19 headlines peaked in mid-March as states began issuing stay-at-home orders. Schools closed, companies asked employees to work from home and national sports leagues shut down. Unemployment rates climbed and the stock market experienced historical volatility. During this period, news consumption surged by 44% relative to the same period in 2019. We believe that the scope and severity of COVID-19, combined with an increase in overall app activity —as people found themselves at home with more time to fill— contributed to elevated news app usage.
2020 news app consumption outpaced that of 2019 from March through May, but with a steady taper down. Beginning in late May, however, consumption surged again on the news of George Floyd’s death, sparking nationwide protests regarding Black Lives Matter and social injustice. During this period, the average number of daily news app sessions grew by 42% compared to the same period last year.
As we write this report, we are at the halfway point of 2020. The protests over the social injustices continue in many cities nationwide and COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Plus, with an upcoming U.S. Presidential Election on November 3rd, we do not anticipate news consumption to wane anytime soon. We’ll continue to monitor interesting mobile trends and keep you informed.