Business news readership soars under lockdown

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A report by media research group the Nielsen Company following Australia-specific data collection shows there has been a significant spike in readership of business and finance news and commentary online, and also share-trading access to online investor tools, since the start of the lockdown in March. Readership of financial news and information has jumped 43 per cent.

The cause appears to be a mixture of increased worries about personal or business finances, given rising unemployment and business failures, and being homebound with possibly more time on one’s hands. The report, written by Lyndal Cowling, ‘digital industry lead’ at Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, says that engagement with financial news and information first spiked in the middle of March 2020, and the increase was driven by news around panic buying and the response of the major supermarket chains in deterring it through strategies such as buying limits and assigned trading hours for seniors.

But, since then, news developments have been dominated by factors such as: falling oil prices, erratic share prices, Job Keeper and other government stimulus announcements, longevity of heavily affected businesses and debates about resumption of travel, retail and hospitality. Since the Federal Government first announced ‘stage 1’ restrictions on March 23, Australians spent almost 500,000 hours per week reading financial news and information content online. This was a 43 per cent increase when compared with the same period in 2019 and a 36 per cent increase compared with the 12 weeks leading up to the announcement, the Nielsen report, published on August 21, says.

Younger people, such as ‘Gen Z’ and ‘Millennials’, have recorded the highest total time spent on consuming financial news and information across business and personal finance since restrictions were first announced, the report notes. “These age groups are most worried about their future, as 13.6 per cent of Australian 15-24 years-olds are unemployed (Australian Bureau of Statistics), and/or they are not eligible to receive the Government’s subsidies. According to Nielsen Digital Content Ratings data, Australians aged 18-24 are spending 59 per cent more time engaging with finance content, and those aged 25-34 have seen a 47 per cent increase during the same period.”

The readership sentiment was echoed in the amount of time spent by Australians aged over 18 in engaging with online trading content and tools. “Whether they are carefully monitoring their existing portfolio, getting a grasp of the market, looking for investment opportunities or snapping up bargain stocks, Australians spent 69 per cent  more time engaging with online trading content for the [June quarter] period when compared with the same period in 2019,” the report says. “The decisions that Australians aged 55-64 make today can largely determine the frugality of their retirement. This is evident in the amount of time those aged 55-64 spent engaging with online trading content and tools and during the June quarter. Whether they are carefully managing their portfolios, monitoring the situation or using the opportunity to buy bargain priced stocks, people aged 55-64 spent 84 per cent more time engaged with online trading content and tools during this period…”

For the full report go to:

– G.B.

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