Pandemic increased news and media usage in the Nordics

Hand holding a covid test
Photo: Jens Lindström, Scandinav Bildbyrå
The Corona pandemic has led to increased demand for news in the Nordic countries. The increase for television news is particularly clear, while social media as a news source has played a minor role. These are some of the results from national Corona surveys during Spring and Summer 2020.
 | 15 December 2020

Surveys in the Nordic countries show how during the first months of the pandemic, the inhabitants mainly turned to professional news media, and that the role of television as a news medium increased significantly. Meanwhile, social media as a news source declined.

When it comes to general media consumption, television viewing increased, both for traditional television and streaming services. Radio decreased somewhat or stayed at the same level compared to pre-Corona levels.

Below we list examples of reports and statistics for individual countries, including data on media consumption before and during the Corona crisis. Some of the material is available in English, but most reports are available in national languages only.

Find the surveys country by country


The Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces:
More TV and less radio during the pandemic

The report on media development in Denmark, published in June, focuses on Denmark before the pandemic, but it also highlights some of the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak for media consumption in the spring of 2020. In terms of news consumption, news sites and TV news increased.

Also, linear TV viewing increased – in all age groups. In contrast, listening to radio and podcasts declined, which may be because those who usually listen on the move, for example on their way to and from work, have stayed at home during lockdown

Centre for Journalism, SDU:
Influencers play a new role during the Corona crisis

During the pandemic, several Danish influencers have passed on messages from, or even lent their channels to, the Prime Minister, the National Board of Health and the police for messages about keeping distance, using face masks, etc.

In a report examining how young people relate to influencers and their messages, researchers from the University of Southern Denmark find that this is a strategy supported by young Danes. And three of four young people agree that “it is okay” that politicians and authorities use influencers for socially important information – e.g., about the Corona virus – to young target groups.


Kantar: Young people's media use increased during the pandemic

On behalf of the Finnish Newspapers Association (as of November: News Media Finland), Kantar has conducted a study of young people's media use during the Covid-19 pandemic (May 2020).

According to the results, nearly all young people have increased their media use during the pandemic. Watching streaming services and YouTube, listening to music and playing games increased the most. The Corona pandemic has also led to a larger number of young people following the news more than before.

Kantar: The media day has increased by 1.5 hours in Spring 2020

During Spring 2020, Finns spent an average of 9.5 hours a day on various media, 1.5 hours more than the year before. Newspapers' online services increased the most, up 41 per cent from 2019 to 2020. In terms of the number of minutes, linear television accounted for the largest growth, up 35 minutes a day.

Statistics Finland: Increase for online media

Statistics Finland measures the use of information and communication technology and web-based media in a yearly survey. In 2020, the data collection took place during the Covid-19 pandemic and partly during the Emergency Powers Legislation period (in force 13 March to 15 May).

According to the survey, peoples’ use of online media – such as online newspapers and the TV companies’ news pages – especially increased. In addition, the use of social media services increased, especially apparent among senior citizens.

Finnpanel: Up for TV, down for radio

Finnpanel has looked into TV viewing during Spring 2020. Compared with the previous year, viewing of television programmes grew 21 per cent during the period when the Emergency Powers Legislation was in place (13 March to 15 May).

As for radio, the overall listening time decreased in the period March–May 2020 compared with the previous year. The listening time of public service radio channels sustained (79 minutes per day), while the listening time of private and commercial radio channels decreased (from 83 to 72 minutes per day).


Erik Wilberg, BI Norwegian Business School: TV important news source for Norwegians during the Corona crisis

During the Corona crisis, consumption of television news increased in Norway. Digital media also increased, while social media declined. This is shown in the report Mediebruk i koronatider [Media use in Corona times], in which Professor Erik Wilberg analyses media consumption in Spring 2020 and compares it with the same period in 2019.

Kantar: The Corona crisis has changed people's media habits

In a presentation on how the Corona crisis has changed people's media habits, Kantar Norway sums up the big media trends and media consumption in Norway during the pandemic.

The results show that during Spring 2020, there was a strong overall growth for media consumption, and news sites (with VG at the top) and streaming services reached record levels. Linear television also increased, while radio listening slightly decreased.


Nordicom: More people turned to the professional news media

During Spring 2020 (February–April), the reach for professional news media in Sweden increased, according to preliminary results from Nordicom's Media Barometer survey 2020, presented at a webinar in May. (The full Media Barometer 2020 survey will be published in Spring 2021.)

The largest increase was for SVT, the Swedish public service TV, whose daily reach as a news medium increased from 46 per cent in 2019 to 52 per cent during Spring 2020 (population 9–79 years). Thereby, SVT consolidated its position as Sweden's most used news medium during the pandemic. In addition to SVT, the daily scope for TV4's news coverage and newspapers also increased.

Learn more about the results in Swedish: See the Media Barometer 2019 webinar and download the pictures from the presentation. The study on news consumption in Corona times is presented during the time 59:00–1:18:45 in the film and from picture 40 in the PDF file.

Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority:
Sharp rise for TV news sites

During Spring 2020, Swedes’ news consumption on radio and television, and on newspapers’ websites, grew. Especially the news sites of public service media and TV4 rose sharply, probably partly explained by the daily press conferences broadcasted live on SVT's site. In contrast, social media as a news platform diminished as a news source.

This is according to a report on Swedish news habits in 2020, written by Ulrika Andersson at the SOM Institute on behalf of the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority. (Data from the SOM Institute's Corona survey; see more below.)

The SOM Institute’s Corona survey:
Increase for both media trust and news

In Spring 2020, the SOM Institute conducted an extra national survey – a Corona survey – to study the effects of the Corona virus pandemic on Swedish society. Among the questions asked of the population aged 16–85 were those about news habits, trust in the media and other social institutions, their views about the authorities' crisis communication, etc., during the pandemic (mid-April–end of June).

Below we highlight results from three of the reports in the series (available in Swedish).

Media trust strengthened during the pandemic

The report about media trust in pandemic times shows that the crisis strengthened Swedes' trust in radio, television and newspapers as social institutions. Results show a rise in trust in all groups, and the politicisation, i.e., the difference in trust that can be linked to political ideology, diminished. Furthermore, trust in SVT's, SR's and TV4's content increased during Spring, while trust in the local morning newspapers and the tabloid press was negatively affected by the pandemic.

Older people increased their use of digital news channels

The pandemic has increased people’s news consumption. During spring, 80 per cent of the population followed the national news on radio or television at least three times a week, and 43 per cent regularly visited newspapers' news sites. 57 per cent regularly visited, or, which is almost a doubling of the audience.

At the same time, 32 per cent regularly consumed news on social media. As for older people, they were more diligent users of digital news channels than normal, which has led to a reduction in the age gap in digital news consumption. Data are from the report on news habits during the pandemic.

Almost nine of ten found information in news media useful

When respondents assessed the crisis communication during the pandemic, it was strongly linked to established news media. According to the report about risk communication learning, almost nine of ten Swedes say that they benefitted from information in news media during the pandemic.

Social media turned out to have played a minor role in how Swedes got information about Corona. Still, 50 per cent of the 65–85-year-olds judged that social media had been very or quite useful.

The Swedish Internet Foundation: Digital life during the pandemic

In the annual report The Swedes and the Internet 2020, The Swedish Internet Foundation (Internetstiftelsen) provides a picture of how Swedes' digital habits have changed during the pandemic. Nearly a third of Internet users say they started using the Internet more during the pandemic.

A clear trend is that the elderly population has taken up more space online and has, for example, started using social media more than before. Surveys for the report, published 15 December, were conducted during Q1 and Q3 2020. 

The mapping of studies is done in cooperation with the the organisations in Nordicom's statistical network.


Eva Harrie

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