Typical lazy and ignorant misuse of English by journalists who should know better - most of 'em have been to university FFS!

As professor Heinz Digit explained 'Exponential growth means that the instantaneous rate of change (that is, the derivative) of a quantity with respect to time is proportional to the quantity itself. This does not necessarily mean that the growth is particularly rapid; technically, no growth at all, or even negative growth (i.e., shrinkage or reduction) are also 'exponential', except that in such cases the exponent is zero or negative.'

'If something is increasing at an accelerating rate, just say so. That is not necessarily the same thing as growing 'exponentially' so don't try to sound clever by misusing words you don't understand.'