May 1, 2020 Heather Wilson

Coronavirus Changed How We Use the Internet

According to the Pew Research Center, 93% of the global population (7.2 billion people) has been under coronavirus-related travel restrictions since late March. With billions of people stuck at home — working, learning, passing the time — the internet has become a critical resource for news, communication, entertainment and staying connected with others. Like many aspects of life, how people are using the internet now is different from how they used it before COVID-19. 

Kahn Media’s “Stay At Home” survey of more than 1,100 consumers, being under quarantine has changed consumers’ media consumption:

  • 64% are spending more time on social media
  • 61% are watching more video content (including online, streaming and TV)
  • 20% are reading less written material (both printed and online)
  • 20% are listening to less audio content
Kahn Media Stay at Home Survey
Source: Kahn Media

READ: COVID-19 Changes in Media Consumption by Generation

Data from SimilarWeb and Apptopia, which was compiled by The New York Times, has revealed other interesting trends. Since people are at home rather than on the move, they’re spending less time looking at small screens on their phones and more time looking at large screens on their computers or smart TVs. 

  • Traffic on popular websites is up: Since early March, traffic has surged by more than 27% on, 16% on and 15% on
  • Traffic on apps is stagnate or down: Facebook’s app is up only 1.1%, Netflix’s app is essentially flat at +0.3% and YouTube’s app is down 4.5%. 
Coronavirus internet use change
Source: The New York Times

To stay connected with others and to get work and learning done remotely, there have been increases in video chat apps, video conferencing and community-oriented websites.

  • Traffic has increased more than 79% on the Houseparty app and more than 12% on Google Duo.
  • Traffic has increased more than 73% on the Nextdoor website.
  • Traffic has surged on Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts Meet and Microsoft Teams.
Coronavirus internet use change
Source: The New York Times

Searching for updates on the pandemic has changed traffic patterns for news and information websites.

  • Traffic has increased for local and established newspaper/media websites, such as,, and
  • Traffic has been flat or declined for partisan websites.
  • The CDC’s website went from negligible daily traffic to well over 10 million visits per day.

Video games are up, sports are down and silliness is more popular than ever.

  • Twitch, the video live streaming platform that’s popular with gamers, has seen a 20% spike in traffic since early March.
  • With major sports shut down, traffic on ESPN’s website is down more than 40%.
  • TikTok, the social networking app where people share short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, is up more than 15%.
Coronavirus internet use change
Source: The New York Times

Weekly surveys conducted by MindShare provide further insights into how COVID-19 has changed how we use the internet. After a surge of online activity in March and early April, the trend appears to have peaked and now Americans are pulling back.

Coronavirus internet use change
Source: MediaPost, MindShare
  • 56% of men, but only 37% of women, believe they have run out of things to watch/read/listen to.
  • 51% of Americans say they have limited their time on media because they don’t want to read any more news about COVID-19.
  • Awareness of brands helping during the crisis declined from 41% during the week of April 13 to 31% during the week of April 20. But 80% of Americans say they’re likely to support a brand who has taken action and helped communities impacted by COVID-19.
  • 51% of affluent Americans (household income of $100,000 or more) have celebrated birthdays or other milestones virtually.
  • 33% of men, but only 20% of women, have participated in a virtual happy hour.
COVID 19 Coronavirus MindShare Wave 7
Source: MindShare

Americans are burned out on bad news. They want to get back to work, they want to visit friends and families and they want to get outside and participate in their favorite activities. But what is clear is that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the shift to a “digital first” mentality.

Even as lockdowns are eased and people return to their normal lives, for a sizable share of the population there will be a wariness of large events and crowds, fear of in-store experiences and less domestic and international travel. Virtual events, online direct-to-consumer sales, telemedicine and other digital activities, because they not only provide convenience but also a sense of safety, are here to stay.