- March 30, 2020

Comscore Sees Shifting Category Trends for Digital Audiences Amid Pandemic

Autum Molay
Autum Molay
Head of Product & Insights Marketing

In analyzing digital consumption across several key categories for the most recent week of data (March 16-22, 2020), we uncovered several important trends in progress in response to the continuing COVID-19 crisis:

Coronavirus - total digital visits per key category

Education & Family
March 16-22 was one of the first weeks when a majority of children in the U.S. stayed home from school and many began “remote schooling,” utilizing a variety of digital-based educational sites and apps. As a result, there were 518 million total digital visits (including desktop, mobile web, and mobile app) to education content, making it the highest week for this category so far in 2020.

The “Education” category saw an 18% increase in total digital visits the week of March 16-22 versus the same week in the prior month (Feb. 17-23). When looking week-over-week (vs. March 9-15), we see a 15% increase indicating this consumption is still growing. (“Education” consists of entities such as Pearson, Blackboard, Duolingo, etc.)

Similarly, within the "Family & Youth" category, sites and apps specifically under “Family & Youth Education” were up 115% versus Feb. 17-23, and up 80% compared to the prior week. (“Family and Youth Education” consists of entities such as Math is Fun, Scholastic, Math Dojo, ABC Mouse, etc.)

As more and more school districts across the country move classes online and parents set up educational options for their children at home, this category will likely continue to grow in the coming weeks and months.

Earlier this week, we looked at an aggregate of total digital visits to Amazon, Walmart and Target’s sites and saw a steady upward climb. This week, we’ve added Costco and Best Buy to the mix as well. In looking at all five retailers – March 16-22 was the highest week of retail visits in 2020 so far. We saw 3% growth since the prior week (March 9-15) and 11% growth since Feb. 17-23.

Total Digital Visits Among Top Retailer Sites

Financial Services
While “Financial Services” content as a whole was fairly flat over the past few weeks (down about three percentage points), one category specifically attracted a lot more attention from consumers: investments.

The volatility in the stock market over the past few weeks has been well-documented, and consumers are increasingly logging onto online sources to check the value of their investments (or make trades). Compared to February 17-23, visits to investment-specific content were up 43% the week of March 16-22, 2020. Compared to the prior week, we still saw an increase in visits, albeit at a more modest 6% growth.

Last week, we looked at an aggregate of total digital visits to 40 of the top news publishers’ sites and saw the highest week of news visits this year, by far. Looking at this same round-up for March 16-22, we saw continued growth. Visits were up 18% over last week, and 68% compared to February 17-23.

Looking more broadly, and excluding “Weather,” visits to all news content were up 45% for March 16-22 compared to February 17-23, and the growth continues as visits are up 13% compared to the prior week, eclipsing 8 billion total visits across all non-weather news content.

The "Local News" category had large growth as consumers try to understand how the Coronavirus will impact their day-to-day and their specific communities. Comparing March 16-22 to February 17-23, visits to local news sites were up 89%, and were up 30% versus the prior week. The 89% growth versus February is the highest growth rate of any news sub-category (“General News” is next at +62%). (Sub-categories include groupings like business/finance, politics, technology, etc.)

Total Digital Visits Among Top Digital News Sites

Social Media
“Social Media,” despite being a very large category in general, is showing double-digit growth for March 16-22 versus both February 17-23 (+16%) and the prior week (+10%). As many across the country deal with self-isolation, shelter in place, and other quarantine restrictions, it seems consumers are increasingly reaching out across social media to stay in touch with friends and family. The 11.9 billion visits to social media content this week are the most visits in a week so far this year for that category.

Travel continues to be one of the hardest-hit categories of online content, which is no surprise given various restrictions in place across the country and the general inclination by most to stay home.

All travel categories have seen a decline this week. After a big spike in traffic March 9-15, when consumers were likely logging in to change their flights or cancel plans, visits to airline sites/apps have dropped 38% March 16-22 to 82 million visits (the fewest visits of any week so far in 2020).

Online travel agents showed the biggest drop in the category, on a percent change basis, falling 46% since February 17-23 and 47% versus the previous week.

In connected news, unsurprisingly, as consumers across the country practice social distancing and in many cases, shelter in place, the “Maps/GPS/Traffic” category is down 27% for March 16-22 compared to February 17-23.

As we noted last week, we had begun seeing notable growth in total digital visits to the CDC, WHO and NIH sites. In the week of March 16-22, that trend continued with a 299% increase from Feb. 17-23 and a 28% increase from the prior week.

Total Digital Visits to Top Government Sources

Note: Unless otherwise noted:

  • All data are "visits" not "unique visits"
  • All data are total digital, including desktop, mobile web and mobile app
  • "This week" - March 16-22, 2020
  • "Prior week" - March 9-15, 2020
  • "Comparable week in February" – Feb. 17-23, 2020

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