How Media Consumption Evolved Throughout COVID-19
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How Media Consumption Evolved Throughout COVID-19

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Knight Foundation Media Consumption

How Media Consumption Evolved Throughout COVID-19

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Media consumption spiked in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak as Americans actively sought information and entertainment while at home. Whether this changed over the course of 2020 remains unclear, however.

To dive deeper into the issue, this infographic explores each generation’s shifts in media consumption habits as the pandemic wore on.

Further below, we’ll also examine which media sources Americans deemed to be the most trustworthy, and why consumption habits may have changed for good.

Changes in American Media Consumption, by Generation

The data in this infographic comes from two surveys conducted by Global Web Index (GWI). The first was completed in April 2020 (N=2,337) and asked participants a series of questions regarding media consumption during COVID-19.

To see how consumption had changed by the end of the year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned GWI to complete a follow-up survey in December 2020 (N=2,014). The following tables provide a summary of the results.

Gen Z

Unsurprisingly, a significant percentage of Gen Z reported an increase in digital media consumption in April 2020 in comparison to pre-pandemic habits. This bump was driven by higher use of online videos, video games, and online TV/streaming films.

By December 2020, these media categories became even more popular with this cohort. Most notably, podcasts saw the highest increase, jumping almost 15% by the end of the year.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts10.9%25.8%+14.9%
Video Games29.9%42.1%+12.2%
Music Streaming28.0%34.6%+6.6%
Broadcast TV24.1%17.0%-7.1%
Online TV / streaming films36.8%39%+2.2%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)51.4%59.1%+7.7%
Livestreams17.4%19.5%+2.1%
Books / literature17.1%20.1%+3.0%
Online Press19.9%17.0%-2.9%
Physical Press8.9%6.3%-2.6%
Radio17.8%10.7%-7.1%
None9.0%13.8%+4.8%

The popularity of traditional outlets like broadcast TV and radio declined from their April 2020 highs, though they are still up relative to pre-pandemic levels for Gen Z survey respondents.

Millennials

Results from the December 2020 survey show that Millennials trimmed their media consumption from earlier in the year. This was most apparent in news outlets (online and physical press), which saw double digit declines in popularity relative to April.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts20.9%26.3%+5.4%
Video Games32.1%29.6%-2.5%
Music Streaming37.4%30.2%-7.2%
Broadcast TV35.7%24.6%-11.1
Online TV / streaming films42.2%39.2%-3.0
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)44.9%42.5%-2.4%
Livestreams32.9%15.6%-17.3%
Books / literature20.4%24%+3.6%
Online Press37.0%16.5%-20.5%
Physical Press20.3%8.0%-12.3%
Radio27.2%17.9%-9.3%
None9.1%20.3%+11.2%

Books and podcasts were the only two categories to capture more interest from Millennials over the time period. It’s also worth noting that the percentage of respondents who said “none” for media consumption rose to 20.3%, up significantly from 9.1% in April.

Possible factors for the increase in “none” responses include easing government restrictions and a return to more normal work schedules.

Gen X

The media consumption habits of Gen X developed similarly to Millennials over the year.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts11.1%13.3%+2.2%
Video Games20.4%16.8%-3.6%
Music Streaming29.6%21.7%-7.9%
Broadcast TV46.4%29.8%-16.6%
Online TV / streaming films40.8%29.9%-10.9%
Online Videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)38.5%23.6%-14.9%
Livestreams23.4%8.4%-15.0%
Books / literature22.2%22.6%+0.4%
Online Press32.7%14.3%-18.4%
Physical Press7.6%4.6%-3.0%
Radio23.5%16.6%-6.9%
None16.0%28.9%+12.9%

Broadcast TV and online press saw the largest declines over the time period, while once again, podcasts and books were the only two categories to capture more interest relative to April. The percentage of respondents reporting “none” rose to 28.9%—a slightly higher share than that of Millennials.

Boomers

Media consumption trends among Baby Boomers were mixed, with some categories increasing and others decreasing since April. Broadcast TV saw the biggest decline in usage of all media types, but remained the most popular category for this cohort.

CategoryApril 2020December 2020Change (percentage points)
Podcasts4.4%7.9%+3.5%
Video Games10.5%9.5%-1.0%
Music Streaming13.7%14.4%+0.7%
Broadcast TV42.3%36.7%-5.6%
Online TV / streaming films22.5%22.0%-0.5%
Online videos (Youtube/TikTok/etc.)11.6%18.2%+6.6%
Livestreams8.8%6.5%-2.3%
Books / literature13.7%17.4%+3.7%
Online Press13.8%11.4%-2.4%
Physical Press7.1%4.6%-2.5%
Radio15.3%15.5%+0.2%
None23.0%31.0%+8.0%

Boomers also had the largest share of “none” respondents in both studies (23.0% in April and 31.0% in December).

Where do Americans Go For Trustworthy News?

To learn more about American media consumption—particularly when it came to staying updated on the pandemic—survey respondents were asked to confirm which of the following sources they found trustworthy.

Knight Foundation Trustworthy Sources

The deviations between each generation don’t appear to be too drastic, but there are some key takeaways from this data.

For starters, Gen Z appears to be more skeptical of mainstream news channels like CNN, with only 28.9% believing them to be trustworthy. This contrasts the most with Gen X, which saw 40.1% of its respondents give news channels the thumbs up.

This story is flipped when we turn to the World Health Organization (WHO). Gen Z demonstrated the highest levels of trust in information published by WHO, at 50.3% of respondents. Only 39.0% of Gen X could say the same.

By far the least trustworthy source was foreign governments’ websites. This category had the lowest average approval rating across the four generations, and scored especially poor with Boomers.

The Lasting Effects of the Pandemic

Habits that were picked up during 2020 are likely to linger, even as life finally returns to normal. To find out what’s changed, respondents were asked which categories of media they expected to continue consuming in elevated amounts.

The chart below shows each generation’s top three responses.

media consumption after COVID

Note that the top three for both Gen Z and Millennials are all digital and online categories (video games can be played offline, but the majority of popular titles are online). This contrasts with the preferences of Gen X and Boomers, who appear to be sticking with more traditional outlets in broadcast TV and books.

With consumption habits of younger and older Americans moving in opposite directions, advertisers and media companies will likely need a clear understanding of their target audiences in order to be successful.

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Demographics

Visualizing the World’s Most Popular Religions

This graphic shows a breakdown of the world’s major religions, and how much of the global population follows each one.

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World's Religions

Visualizing the World’s Most Popular Religions

According to some estimates, there are over 4,000 religions, faiths groups, and denominations that exist around the world today. Researchers and academics generally categorize the world’s religions into five major groups: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.

This graphic by Chit Chart visualizes the most popular religions around the world, using the latest available data from Index Mundi’s world demographics.

In addition to the five major religious groups, the graphic includes two more categories: one for a collective of Folk religions and another for people who are unaffiliated with a religion.

The Religions with the Most Followers

Although the number of people who follow a religion has decreased in recent decades, 82.8% of the global population still identifies with one of the world’s major religions.

Here’s a breakdown of the most popular religions, ranked by their following as a percentage of the world’s population:

RankReligion% of World’s Population
1Christian31.4%
2Muslim23.2%
3Unaffiliated16.4%
4Hindu15.0%
5Buddhist7.1%
6Folk Religions5.9%
7Jewish0.2%
8Other0.8%

Christianity has the largest following with approximately 31% of the global population. Muslims make up the second-largest religious group, accounting for 23.2% of the world’s population.

Roughly 16.4% of the global population is unaffiliated with a religion. This figure exceeds the percentage of people who identify with Hinduism (15%), Buddhism (7.1%), Folk Religions (5.9%), or Judaism (0.2%).

The World’s Religions from Oldest to Newest

Hinduism is considered the oldest religion in the world, originating in the Indus River Valley (modern-day Pakistan) circa 7000 BCE.

While Judaism came after Hinduism, it is thought to be the oldest of the three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths, making it older than Christianity and Islam.

It began circa 2000 BCE in the Southern Levant (modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan). By contrast, Christianity was founded in the 1st century and began as a movement within Judaism.

Scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th century, making it the youngest of the world’s major religions on this list. Islam was established in Mecca (modern-day Saudi-Arabia).

One religion that’s not included on this list is Sikhism. Founded in the late 15th century, it’s relatively new, especially compared to other religions like Hinduism or Judaism. Yet, despite being new, Sikhism has a large following—according to some estimates, there are over 25 million Sikhs worldwide.

What are Folk Religions?

A folk religion is defined as an ethnic or cultural practice that exists outside the theological doctrine of organized religions.

Lacking sacred texts, Folk religions are more concerned with spirituality than rituals or rites. Examples of Folk religions include Native American traditions, Chinese folk religions, and traditional African religions.

Since Folk religions are less institutionalized, they are especially challenging to measure and often excluded from surveys. With that said, an estimated 5.9% of the global population (approximately 430 million people) practice a Folk religion.

The Fastest-Growing Religions

While Islam is the newest of the big five religions, it’s currently the world’s fastest-growing one too. For context, here’s the estimated percent change among the seven religion categories, between 2015 and 2060:

RankReligious GroupEst. % change in population size (2015-2060)
1Muslims70%
2Christians34%
3Hindus27%
4Jews15%
5Folk religions5%
6Unaffiliated3%
7Buddhists-7%

Islam’s rapid growth means it may surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion within the next half-century. What’s causing this growth?

According to Pew Research Center, the main reason is simply demographics—on average, Muslim women have 2.9 children, which the average of all non-Muslims is 2.2.

Muslims are also concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, the two regions predicted to have the highest population increases in the next few decades.

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Demographics

Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.

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A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.

If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.

Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?

This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020

To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:

A county’s base population → plus births → minus deaths → plus migration = new population estimate

 
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenix, ScottsdaleArizona+753,898
#2Harris CountyHoustonTexas+630,711
#3Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+363,323
#4King CountySeattleWashington+335,884
#5Tarrant CountyFort Worth, ArlingtonTexas+305,180
#6Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+303,982
#7Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+287,626
#8Collin CountyPlanoTexas+284,967
#9Travis CountyAustinTexas+270,111
#10Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+264,446

Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500$53,310 below the national average.

Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Cook CountyChicagoIllinois-90,693
#2Wayne CountyDetroitMichigan-74,224
#3Cuyahoga CountyClevelandOhio-50,220
#4Genesee CountyFlintMichigan-20,165
#5Suffolk CountyLong IslandNew York-20,064
#6Caddo ParishShreveportLouisiana-18,173
#7Westmoreland CountyMurrysvillePennsylvania-17,942
#8Hinds CountyJacksonMississippi-17,751
#9Kanawha CountyCharlestonWest Virginia-16,672
#10Cambria CountyJohnstownPennsylvania-14,786

The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).

For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.

U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)

While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.

For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.

The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.

population changes in u.s. counties (%)

Pandemic Population Changes

More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.

Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2020–2021)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenixArizona+58,246
#2Collin CountyPlanoTexas+36,313
#3Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+35,631
#4Fort Bend CountySugar LandTexas+29,895
#5Williamson CountyGeorgetownTexas+27,760
#6Denton CountyDentonTexas+27,747
#7Polk CountyLakelandFlorida+24,287
#8Montgomery CountyThe WoodlandsTexas+23,948
#9Lee CountyFort MyersFlorida+23,297
#10Utah CountyProvoUtah+21,843
#11Pinal CountySan Tan ValleyArizona+19,974
#12Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+19,090
#13Pasco CountyNew Port RicheyFlorida+18,322
#14Wake CountyRaleighNorth Carolina+16,651
#15St. Johns CountySt. AugustineFlorida+15,550
#16Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+14,814
#17Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+14,184
#18Ada CountyBoiseIdaho+13,947
#19Osceola CountyKissimmeeFlorida+12,427
#20St. Lucie CountyFort PierceFlorida+12,304

Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.

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