Free Digital Lockers Have Wide Appeal

iCloud-B2Tech giants, including Apple, Amazon and Google, have all rolled out their own versions of digital lockers to capitalize on the growing appetite for accessible digital media and advances in cloud computing. Affirming the attraction of these services, a new PwC study finds that 90% of survey participants are “somewhat” to “very interested” in the idea of storing and accessing content from a digital library. 

Surprisingly, the oldest age group (ages 50-59) expressed the most interest in digital lockers for storing music, photos, videos and other online material compared to the two younger age groups: 18-24 and 25-34. 

People across all age groups are heavily engaged in downloading and streaming movies and TV shows at least once per month or more. The three top devices they download to are computers (96%), game consoles (68%) and smartphones or other handsets (62%). Movies and TV shows ranked as the types of content most likely to be stored in a hypothetical digital library, followed by music, photos and videos.

Most people would rather use a digital locker in connection with rented content, especially movies. But 28% of those surveyed said they would purchase more content, as opposed to rent, if purchased content was only accessible via a digital locker.

Being able to get a digital locker for free was viewed as the chief benefit of the service. “This was significantly more important to those who are not currently engaged in file-sharing than those who are and who are likely more familiar with paying for such a service,” according to the PwC report.

Presented with a possible fee for access and maintenance of $25-$99 per year, most people (68%) stated their willingness to use a digital storage library/locker would be “somewhat” to “very much” affected. So while a lot of people like the idea of a digital locker, they don’t necessarily want to pay for it.

The big tech players seemed to have learned that lesson. The iCloud storage service Apple launched last year, for instance, replaced its $99-a-year MobileMe service. (The company does charge $25 a year for iTunes Match, for uploads of songs that haven’t been purchased via iTunes.)

Other reasons why people would sign up for a cloud-based storage service include the ability to have content wherever they are, more options for viewing material, the prospect of having unlimited content in a digital locker and having content centralized in one place. Having access to their media library anywhere was especially important for the 25-34 age group. 

Given the interest in digital lockers, the PwC study suggested digital media companies could benefit from increased marketing of their offerings, especially to baby boomers. For younger consumers, it would be smart to focus on delivering digital locker services through devices like game consoles.

Companies should also try to educate people about the rights associated with digital libraries, since many are used to sharing material outside their homes with little regard for potential copyright violations.

The PwC report was based on a survey conducted among a geographically diverse sample of 502 adults aged 18-59 in October 2011, as well as on focus groups conducted in November 2011 in Los Angeles among mixed groups of men and women 21-49.

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