Is Coronavirus stealing everyone’s attention?

March 16, 2020

Is Coronavirus stealing everyone’s attention?

With the Covid-19 crisis escalating worldwide, we thought it would be interesting to see whether the intense focus on this particular pandemic is affecting the attention that other global issues receive. What impact has it had on other charities, especially those that work in non health-related fields? Have people stopped talking about climate change, poverty and famine? Does anyone even remember the pre-Christmas wildfires in Australia, which seemed to be the only thing people were talking about online for weeks?

We plugged a host of keywords into a social listening tool to see what we could find out. Some interesting things emerged – some expected, some less so.

Coronavirus is the hot topic, but for how long?

Unsurprisingly, online chat about coronavirus has shot up since the end of February. At its peak, over 12-13 March, there were around 35 million mentions of it online. However, there has been a dip in the couple of days since. Will we get to a stage where people are bored of talking about it? All jokes will have been rinsed, all pictures of empty supermarket shelves and disinformation about people with coronavirus not being able to see the moon shared to the point of inanity.

Compare this to the 2019-20 wildfires in Australia, which killed 34 humans and an estimated one billion animals. The online chat hit a first peak in late August, with over two million mentions per day, and then a second peak in December with 1.5 million. In the last two months it has stayed steady at half a million mentions a day.

This has not had much impact on other disaster topics

More surprisingly, the new focus on coronavirus has not coincided with much of a dip in discussions about other global issues. People are still talking about climate change, refugees, poverty, and cancer. Mentions of these issues have only dipped by 2% since the end of February compared to the four months prior.

This has had an impact on large charities

While people are still talking about global issues more broadly, they are talking less about the large charities that tackle them. Chat about Greenpeace, Cancer Research UK, UNICEF, WWF and more has decreased by 28% since coronavirus started consuming all media output. Mentions of charity, fundraising, donations, and non-profits have also decreased by 11% since the end of February.

So to some extent, the intense focus on coronavirus has impacted on the attention that unrelated charities are receiving. It remains to be seen whether those charities notice a dip in income, although those that rely heavily on events or footfall in shops for their fundraising will almost certainly be the hardest hit.

For now, coronavirus is, of course, dominating global debate. How long that lasts for is unknown, but it is encouraging for engagers and fundraisers in non-profits around the world alike to see that other important global issues are not going unnoticed, at least for the timebeing. 


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