The Incredible, Insatiable Media Consumer

While one would think that the abundance of media channels already gushing and overlapping with content would bring consumers close to saturation, apparently there is no clear limit yet on our capacity for more. According to PQ Media’s new Global Consumer Media Usage & Exposure Forecast for the next five years worldwide digital media usage will have grown 12% in 2014 to 6.5 hours a week. And that appetite for virtually all available channels of digimedia will continue to expand at a 10.6% compound annual growth rate, hitting 9.6 hours per week in 2018. Meanwhile traditional media usage will only grow by .8% CAGR. Still, in 2013, traditional media was being consumed at a rate of about 38 hours a week, showing decelerated growth but still clear dominance. In the U.S. traditional media usage fell 1.7% to 48.49 hours per week.

While the overall time spent on digital globally may seem small, when you tease out the top end the figure more than doubles. The 15 biggest digital media consumption markets average more than 15 hours a week spent among the channels. Interestingly the UK has the most voracious consumers (16.87 hours) followed South Korea, Australia and Canada. The US lags relatively, with average weekly digital use at 14.92 hours. Brazil leads the world in usage growth (21%), while the U.S. ranks 15th at only 6.9% growth.  



The growth in digital is coming pretty much from all channels at once, but obviously mobile is leading the charge with 24% increase in usage in 2013 alone. The Internet (accesses by PC and laptop) will be the slowest growing channel as the migration both to devices and OTT platforms continues. Men continue to consume slightly more digital content than women, but global CAGR for both will be 10.2% PQ projects.

An interesting area for growth, and one that has many cross-channel possibilities, be digital out-of-home (OOT). PQ Media expects persistent growth here, as more screens appear in critical points of choice and consumption, including doctor’s offices, gas stations, entertainment locations as well as the increasing number of movie theater placements and digital billboards. The report says that in major metros, digital signage may be approaching saturation, although it is hard to imagine what stationary object advertisers wouldn’t want to clothe with a screen. And of course digital signage is a two-way path. One of the intriguing aspects of expanding OOT reach is the potential interaction with the non-stationary screens consumers are bringing with them. Leveraging technologies like Bluetooth, beacons, or even just text, phones could help digital signage become truly interactive and personalized.  

As a share of all media time, digital in the U.S. was 23.6% in 2013, less than Australia, UK and digital leader South Korea (29.3%), which has been exclusively broadband since the early 2000s.

In the U.S. the rapid expansion of both smartphones but also 4G data speed has seen mobile usage grow 22% in 2013 with an expected 13.9% CAGR through 2018. But tablet penetration is easing, and PQ sees growth here coming more from the business side, in the enterprise, hospitals, etc.

Also in transition, PQ contends, is social media. The older demographic is starting to accelerate their use of these channels, while younger users exhibit what PQ is calling a “burnout rate, similar to what is seen on television when a popular program runs its course.” Younger users, teens and Millennials, are posting less frequently on the original nets like Facebook and embracing messaging service like Snapchat or novel niche channels like Vine.

It is relentless fragmentation of the media landscape that seems to me most striking in all of this. PQ Media is seeing growth coming steadily from game consoles, OTT video, OOT and they haven’t even mentioned wearables. Even within the channels, there seems to be an ease with which consumers are migrating across publishers like Facebook and perhaps wearing out their own tastes and passions for something quickly. But what is also important in these shifting behaviors is the opportunity for amplification through integration. Netflix pioneered the art of digital ubiquity. It not only made itself available on every imaginable platform (I even have it on my Nintendo 3DS), but it made the experience seamless and highly personal. The opportunity in fragmentation is offering the consumer coherence, an easier path for them to move across platforms, not have to repeat effort, and continue rather than restart relationships.     

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