UK Hits Media Saturation Point -- What Next?

We must have all secretly wondered when people would see or read enough stuff -- when they have consumed enough content and have room for no more.

Well, according to eMarketer's latest research out today, that time has arrived. Media consumption will plateau this year, it claims, and that is the new norm. In 2018, its researchers predict, the average Brit will spend nearly nine and a half hours a day consuming media. That's up about an hour and a quarter over the past five years.

However, the big takeaway is that it is the same as last year. It's the first time that eMarketer's headline is not a major surge in media consumption. One can only assume the point is that there are still only 24 hours in each day, and that work habits we're all in get in the way -- or should -- so getting on for nine and a half hours per day is as high as we can collectively go.

Needless to say, digital now accounts for half of that time -- up from 40% five years ago -- and mobile represents about a third. If anything, this latest finding is the big takeaway, after the fact we've reach saturation point has soaked in. If we're spending a third of our media time on a mobile device, we're actually watching the small screen more than we are the big screen. TV accounts for around 30% of our time devoted to media, so for the first time this year, mobile will overtake it. 

This latter point essentially underscores what eMarketer's researchers are telling us. There may yet be room for a little more digital growth, and mobile may extend its lead over tv -- but overall, the attention we give to media has plateaued.

This is obviously not great news for traditional media. Print is only down from 4% to 3% of our time over the past five years, and radio has only dropped from 18% to 15% but there appears to be only way this is going. TV seems to have taken the biggest hit over the past five years -- down from 37% to 30% -- although it's the most likely medium here where consumers have swapped the box in the living room for the laptop or iPad in the bedroom.

So we have an interesting situation. In the past, content consumption was increasing each year to accommodate the expansion of digital, with only a little less left for traditional channels.

Now that we have reached a saturation point, one can only imagine that digital's growth is going nowhere -- but from now on, it will come at the increased cost of traditional media because overall consumption is not increasing. Much of this growth will be consuming the news, radio and tv on digital devices, and so more of a flow than a land grab.

However, we have reached that point where the whole pie doesn't get bigger, but digital and mobile's slice will increase at the cost of traditional, analogue media channels. 

1 comment about "UK Hits Media Saturation Point -- What Next?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 2, 2018 at 7:41 a.m.

    Not to worry, Sean. The "audience" numbers that are the basis for this analysis are inflated and do not present a true picture of the time people actually spend with the media---mainly electronic media. What is being reported is device usage---meaning that, according to some panel, the TV set is on or the PC is activated----not whether the human "audience" is even present at a given moment let alone whether it is paying any attention.  In such research, "viewing" and/or "listening" is assumed on a per minute basis, but it is not actually measured. Our own estimate is that a typical adult is fully attentive to about six hours of media per day and even this may not tell the entire story, particularly where ad exposure is concerned. Those who want more information on this and many other cross media comparisons can find it all covered in our annual, "Intermedia Dindesions 2018"

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