COVID is affecting everything. 

Like, literally. 

By now, you’re sick of me telling you everything affects everything. I only say it because it’s true. 

And nothing has ever affected everything more than COVID affects everything. 

It’s why we’re all burned out, why our eyesight is degrading faster than usual, why some of our favorite bars closed, and why political tribalism is nastier than ever. 

It’s also why a chicken wing costs $2, why I can never find Dot’s Pretzels, and why it’s taken me three effing months to book an electrician. COVID is why Netflix is plateauing, why Peloton stopped building bikes. It’s why legacy CPGs are losing more share to private label brands and why Wordle is blowing up. 

COVID is also the reason CivicScience is two-and-a-half times bigger than it was the first time I disinfected groceries in my garage. Because we saw it all coming. 

Yesterday, we released the 100th weekly update of our COVID Tracker product, which is equal parts impressive and depressive. It has grown from a handful of questions about how much people were afraid to be in public to hundreds of questions about every angle of COVID you never imagined. We link the results to each of the thousands of questions and brands in our database that COVID impacts – which is all of them.

Our COVID data took us from being a nice-to-have, incrementally better source of consumer intel to a flying-blind-without-it must-have. Our smartest clients have figured out how to map our results to their sales. To predict them. To shift strategy on a dime.

And nobody will ever catch up to us because you can’t just recreate 100 weeks of contiguous, inextricably intertwined history from 2 billion survey responses out of thin air. 

I always walk a fine line with this email. If I stray too far from dick jokes and parenting rants, if I get my hand too close to the marketing stove, people complain. My board yells at me for giving too much away for free and not selling aggressively enough. Lots of big company people read this, forward it to their colleagues, and never pay a dime or see an ad. You’re welcome.

But our COVID data is only getting more valuable by the minute. Next month, we’re going to layer in dozens of new daily metrics about spending, tech trends, and media habits. We thought about changing the name, because it’s not just about COVID anymore. But we’re not. 

Because COVID affects everything. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:          

On that note, people are getting sick of hearing about COVID – but I’m going to keep talking about it anyway. Fifty percent of American adults say they’re following pandemic-related news just as much as they were in the beginning, while the remainder have cut back by a ratio of over 2:1. Even the people who still pay attention to COVID news are exhausted by it – a full 77% of U.S. adults say they’re experiencing COVID news fatigue. I’m certainly on that list. But we all just have to suck it up until it’s gone.  

Inflation could be a buzzkill for our lofty New Year’s health goals. Nearly half of U.S. adults say they are planning to eat better and exercise more in 2022. We’ve seen a marked increase in the number of Americans who are exercising “several times a week,” after sliding steadily since September. Healthy eating aspirations face economic headwinds, however, as the percentage of adults who say they AREN’T eating healthy because it’s too expensive leapt 26% since last summer. One way or another, try not to let yourselves get too inflated, folks.   

Fragmentation in the streaming space is coming hard and fast. It’s hard to see Netflix as anything other than a victim of its own success and influence. Imagine creating an entire category, nearing 70% household penetration in the U.S., producing original content preferred 3 ½ times more than your nearest competitor, and STILL getting the shit kicked out of you by Wall Street. Making life difficult for Netflix is a growing field of competition – that only exists because of all the consumers they brought into the market. The percentage of streaming households with four or more services has doubled since COVID showed up. Also in this study – 34% of Netflix users would migrate and one-third of non-users would sign up for a lower-cost, ad-supported NFLX, if given the choice. Stay tuned.

COVID has been an absolute wrecking ball for K-12 education, especially for kids whose parents worked outside of the home throughout the pandemic. Debbie Downer alert! A devastating 67% of U.S. parents say their children have fallen behind in school because of the pandemic. Eighty-five percent report some negative consequences, from education to social skills to overall mental health. Income isn’t correlated the way you expect – higher income families were the most likely to say their kids’ learning was negatively impacted. The biggest academic hardship was reported by parents who couldn’t work remotely. That part makes sense. 

Younger generations are more likely to pay to read news and other content online. This is a brighter spot, in my opinion. Over half of Americans who pay for content subscriptions online are under the age of 35, which should give us all hope for the future (and the future of journalism). They’re also more likely to be left-of-center politically, and more likely to follow trends in music and tech. They’re less likely to be price sensitive in most retail categories too, which makes them an attractive target for advertisers. It’s all great.

Oh, and if you’re following the Neil Young drama, this is all you need to know:

More from CivicScience:

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Never had one; Hell yes; Always; This question sucks; Dishwasher, unlike everyone else in my house ffs; Roast, definitely.

Hoping you’re well.


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In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.

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