A Look at News Sources, Fear, and Consumer Behavior

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A Look at News Sources, Fear, and Consumer Behavior

News consumption is up, with more people checking in for the latest updates on COVID-19 news. Our latest Facing Fear research report explored media consumption groups and how news sources affect consumer fear and anxiety. These issues have only been exacerbated with the current global crisis. Alter Agents CEO Rebecca Brooks covers some findings from our research in her latest article in Forbes, exploring how news sources affect behavior and perceptions.

Our research uncovered five key media consumption groups, clustered based on preferred media sources. Most interesting to brands is that these groups have differing approaches to consumption. Rebecca writes: “What we found with each of these groups was that the media consumed directly affected global and personal outlook, and how fearful they felt about things like financial stability…Brands should be aware that the differences among these groups have a direct impact on shopping behavior and attitudes.”

  • Mainstream Informed (52% boomers): Major newspapers, podcasts, BBC and The Guardian. This group cares mostly about function, prefer niche brands, plan decisions ahead, and enjoy shopping less than others.
  • Network News (nearly equal among all ages, with 33% Gen Z/millennials, 34% Gen X and 33% boomers): Mainstream network news, Google, and Yahoo. They like shopping and find it easy, but find big purchases stressful. 
  • Online/Social (68% Gen Z/millennials): YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, BuzzFeed, and Axios. Those who fall into this category make decisions on the spur of the moment and care more about style/form than others. They are also increasing their spending over time more than the other groups.
  • Basic Mainstream (45% boomers): CNN and USA Today. This group prefers mainstream brands and finds shopping harder.
  • Fox Viewer (45% boomers): Fox News, Network News, Facebook, and The Wall Street Journal. They are in the middle when it comes to shopping perceptions, though they do find expensive purchases more stressful than others. Most likely to say their purchases reflect their personality.

In the current environment where many people are seeking information about the day-by-day (and even hour-by-hour) developments when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand how this level of consumption is affecting behavior and attitudes. Rebecca writes: “Brands need to deeply understand their audiences, including how they are consuming news, in order to create messages and products that will make the best impact.” 


Our Facing Fear Research Series

Drawing on world-class analysis from researchers at Alter Agents and commentary by thought leaders in economics, political science, and psychology, this reporting series is a must-read to understand the consumer mindset entering the second year of the pandemic.

Facing Fear: Understanding Anxious Consumers
Facing Fear: Consumer Anxiety in 2020
Facing Fear: Overcoming Consumer Anxiety

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