April 9, 2020

Will the Pandemic Be Televised?

When it comes to advertising during the pandemic, brands are taking very different approaches. Despite high ratings and increased pageviews as interest in the news and content consumption increases, the advertising industry as a whole is slowing down. Some brands worry about COVID-19 impacting their bottom lines – or expect it will soon. Others won’t advertise next to stories about coronavirus—despite record volume and traffic—out of fear of seeming insensitive. This presents a particular challenge for news outlets, especially local ones like radio stations, many of whom rely on small business advertising. Other brands are effectively meeting the moment, with Verizon talking about increased network capacity and Domino’s advertising contactless pizza delivery. One thing we do know: Overwhelmingly, Americans want to see empathy from brands in these uncertain times, and tone-deaf responses won’t be quickly forgotten.

A Rising Threat in Rural America

Coronavirus was slow to spread in rural communities, but two-thirds of rural counties now report at least one case. Although residents of rural areas tend to be physically distant by default, other trends could make them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Rural residents tend to be older, less likely to be insured and are more likely to have underlying conditions. More than 120 rural hospitals have closed in the past decade and the remaining tend to be smaller and more poorly equipped, with shortages of specialists and primary care physicians. Nearly half of rural hospitals were operating in the red before the pandemic, calling into question whether some facilities will be able to survive the crisis. Meanwhile, many rural residents do not have high speed internet, making telehealth, remote working and distance learning difficult or impossible. Advocates have pushed for more funding for rural broadband deployment in the next relief legislation to address health and economic risks. Recent polling also shows rural Americans may be taking the threat less seriously, with more likely to say the coronavirus outbreak is not a health risk (31%) compared to urban (15%) and suburban (18%) dwellers.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Fed Announces New Lending Programs

This morning, the Federal Reserve announced several new lending programs to boost the battered U.S. economy. One such new program, called Main Street, aims to help small- and medium-sized businesses keep workers on the payroll. Main Street will finance four-year loans to businesses with up to 10,000 employees or less than $2.5 billion in revenue last year. The Fed also announced it will provide $120 billion in capital to other lending programs. Collectively today’s actions account for $195 billion of the $454 billion allocated to the Federal Reserve by the most recent coronavirus relief package, leaving $259 billion left for the Fed to add to these programs or others it chooses to create.

Coverage Shifts from Action to Impacts

As the pandemic evolves, so does public discourse. GPG examined the tweets of a subset of national journalists to determine how they’re discussing COVID-19—and how the conversation’s changing. Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen this discussion noticeably shifting away from actions and regulations taken by governments (bailouts and state/local government action) toward the effect those actions and COVID-19 are having on people and their livelihoods, such as elderly care and small business. We’ve also seen a sharp decline in conversation related to schools, as the decision to close campuses and move classes online was a step taken relatively early on and now has become normalized. As we continue to move through the phases of this pandemic, we’ll continue to explore how it’s shaping the conversation.