April 29, 2020

Readers (Or Reporters?) Losing Their Taste for Virus News

Has COVID-19 media appetite peaked

For the first time, we are seeing the percentage of COVID-19 related articles drop substantially

Last month, COVID-19 was increasingly dominating the news cycle at a rate that looked eerily similar to that of the virus’ spread. Through the first half of April we saw the percentage of articles from major outlets referencing COVID-19 continue to increase, reaching as high as 59% on April 5

But over the week of April 19, that number dropped to 49%. GPG noted a similar trend in Twitter behavior.

The popularity of new content like the aptly named Some Good News with John Krasinski, which has 2 million YouTube subscribers, indicates Americans may have hit bad news fatigue. The show intentionally avoids the typical coronavirus headlines and replaces them with famous faces, cooking recipes and feel-good stories.

It’s clear COVID-19 is here to stay — at least in some form — for a while. But reader attention is evolving.

Masks on, Masks off

Even masks have become politicized in the pandemic age.

More people are starting to don masks while running errands or exercising following the latest CDC guidance. Some grocery stores and other essential businesses have begun requiring face masks prior to entry.

And most Americans are on board. Eighty-two percent of adults say face masks are effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19, and 61% say they wear a face mask whenever they’re in public.  

But Vice President Mike Pence made headlines as the only person in his party not to wear a mask during his recent visit to the Mayo Clinic. Republicans on the House floor also refused to wear masks last week, though every Democratic congressperson had some sort of face covering. 

Wearing masks also presents a challenge for African American men. Videos have surfaced of black men being kicked out of a Walmart for wearing masks. And others have described feeling unsafe and profiled for wearing a mask on social media.

Are masks here to stay? Two-thirds of Americans (64%) think so. Only a fifth of Americans don’t think masks will be a part of the next 12 months.

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Red, White and ActBlue

Politicians with campaign coffers to fill are coming up with ever more creative ways to do it from a social distance. 

One PAC sent out an invitation for a virtual workout class. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) is offering a guided meditation and mindfulness session.

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) is hosting a virtual wine tasting complete with sommelier guidance and bottles delivered. “Cyber Smoke” fundraisers where attendees smoke cigars together over Zoom have become popular as well. 

A star-studded virtual fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden featuring such luminaries as Kristin Chenoweth, Melissa Etheridge, Billy Porter and Billie Jean King raised over $1 million. The presidential hopeful also chatted with donors online from his basement. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is even recruiting donors for an upcoming in-person fundraiser in Sonoma in August.

Others–like Minnesota Congressional candidate Dan Feehan–are taking a totally different tack. His campaign is inviting subscribers who are facing financial hardships to opt-out of fundraising emails for the time being.

Red or blue, both parties can agree all money is green–at least for now.

Movie Theaters Fight Back

The longstanding tug of war over exclusive theatrical distribution between traditional studios, streaming platforms and theater chains reached a chaotic turning point this week. 

The outlook has gone from bleak to bleaker for global exhibitors like AMC Theaters, which was among the first to enact massive layoffs, take on greater debt and beat back rumors of bankruptcy. Now, panicked theater owners are afraid that demand may not fully recover when the crisis ends. In the past few days:

  • AT&T’s new CEO told investors the company was “rethinking” the theatrical model for Warner Bros. films as streaming platforms gain strength.
  • Universal confirmed its direct-to-homes Trolls World Tour release strategy has brought in nearly $100 million so far.
  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors voted to temporarily stay the rules mandating a window of theatrical exclusivity for 2021 awards prospects. Exhibitors lost what little remaining leverage they had.

AMC, Regal, Cineworld and the National Association of Theater Owners all issued scorched earth responses to Universal’s victory lap, vowing to ban the studio’s films from their theaters.

The industry continues to innovate around digital creation, acquisition and distribution – leaving brick-and-mortar theaters largely out of the picture. As many as 25 percent – or more than 1,000 – of U.S. theaters may not survive an extended shutdown.

Universal said late Tuesday it expects to “release future films directly to theatres, as well as on Premium Video On Demand when that distribution outlet makes sense.”