Digital Media Consumption Fatigue

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The average American spends more than 15 hours consuming media every day from dozens of different sources. How much more can we consume?

In short: Our culture has reached media over-saturation. And it’s affecting the way we consume and appreciate content.

Studies show that more options actually make us less satisfied. Researchers have found those who compare and deliberate on their choices more frequently experienced much higher levels of unhappiness — even depression.

According to a new Bridge Ratings consumer study, digital media burnout has reached a tipping point. Trends suggest massive time-spent increases with digital media platforms over the last few years have created decision-stress among most Americans. 

As typical Americans expand their use of digital media to the point of saturation: 12 hours each day, usage of some platforms will diminish. We're finding that generally only three of the most-consumed digital platforms for most individuals will manage to sustain current usage levels and by the end of 2018 we will see declines in time-spent with those that don't make the cut.

What does this mean for media companies? 

As much as increased digital usage over the last ten years has created competitive headaches for legacy media such as television, print and radio, heightened competition for attention has arrived which further complicates matters.

Attention-Deficit

Digital Attention Deficit - when the amount of individual potential digital platform use exceeds daily time available.
— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings
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While in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show this year, once again Bridge Ratings conducted focus groups to learn more about consumers time spent with digital media platforms. Added to our on-line research study of 2500 persons ages 13 and older which we conducted January 2 through 12, it is becoming clear that consumers are struggling with all the media available to them.

The team at Bridge Ratings has been trending digital consumption for over ten years and with each new year we have seen increases in total time spent with digital platforms which include on-line music streaming, on-line video streaming, social media, texting and more.

It has been exhilarating to see how much time is devoted to the world of digital entertainment.

Until this year.

We have just completed our January interviews related to digital platform preferences and the results point to the first look we have had regarding consumer prioritization of digital media content.

Teens have always been early adopters of all things new and digital entertainment has been no different. What we're seeing from them in this study we conducted in January 2017 and again January 2-10, 2018 may be a harbinger of movement across all demographics. Digital Attention Deficit - when the amount of potential digital platform use exceeds traditional daily time available.

We asked our panels to prioritize the digital platforms they use on a weekly basis.

For teens, Social Media, Gaming and On-line Video streaming reign supreme.

How to read: Digital entertainment platform preferences January 2018 v January 2017. For teens, Gaming was the #1 most-utilized platform in 2017. in 2018 it is second.

How to read: Digital entertainment platform preferences January 2018 v January 2017. For teens, Gaming was the #1 most-utilized platform in 2017. in 2018 it is second.

For teens increased time-spent with on-line video streaming, TV on-demand and social media consume 75% of their weekly digital engagement. Reduction in Time spent is with Podcasts and texting.

Ages 18-34 Adults

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Millennials and adults 25-54 share similar consumption preferences when it comes to on-line streaming whether it be video or audio. As the above chart reflects young adults intend to spend more time this year with on-line video streaming likely at the expense of texting and podcast consumption.

Ages 25-54 Adults

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The Adults 25-54 years of age in our panels indicate more time spent this year with on-demand streaming - both audio and video with less spent with social media and podcasts among others.

Ages 55+

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Adults 55+ and Boomers actually see themselves spending more time with social media and on-demand Television. Podcasts continue to interest this demographic and is the only one of these four age groups where podcasting retains a high degree of time spent consuming.

And while podcasting is among those activities that may experience reduced usage this year among all consumers, primary users of the platform will likely continue to consume their favorite podcasts more frequently at the expense of expanding their list of downloadable podcast content.

Social Media Fatigue Leads

While the increase in influence of social media is undeniable, the social reality is that this year, survey respondents are showing signs of dissatisfaction.
— Dave Van Dyke, President Bridge Ratings Media Research

At the heart of the increasing media fatigue is social media. 

Though social media use remains high, a significant portion of our sample self-reports that they are not enjoying their time spent on it as much as they used to.

Daily social media usage has fallen from 70% to 63% over the last year. The most pronounced drop has been among ‘leading millennials', ‘the social media pioneers', among whom daily use of social media has fallen to 72%, from 84% last year. A decline in heavy users – defined as those that update or check their accounts more than 10 times a day – has apparently driven this overall decline. 

A third of our panelists have temporarily or permanently deactivated one or more of their social media accounts in the past year. 55% have unfriended or unfollowed friends on their platforms who have posted negatively. 

One in five ( 20%) Americans reportedly don't enjoy their time spent on social media, and 46% report spending more time on it than they would like. 

While the increase in influence of social media is undeniable, the social reality is that, this year, survey respondents are showing signs of dissatisfaction. 

Bottom Line

With social media feeding the fatigue factor among both our focus groups and on-line questionnaire participants and with a limited amount of time available each day for media consumption, there is evidence that consumers are being forced into making difficult decisions about the full array of media consumed during a typical day.

When given a choice consumers in our sample are choosing Entertainment-based platforms such as on-demand audio and video or gaming to capture what time they do have. Accentuating these types of platforms results in reduction of others as we see in the above study results comparing 2018 with 2017 digital media consumption.

With increasing sources of entertainment and greater consumer prioritizing, media companies in 2018 are faced with a new facet to competition: how compelling is your content? 

The long tail of on-demand digital entertainment has become overwhelming for many so they have become more critical in the way they spend time. 

Consumer choice related to most-used digital media platforms today is shifting more to entertainment than to information. This study confirms changes in behavior which should guide digital media content producers for the immediate future and provide a strategy for traditional (TV, radio, print) media to further engage audiences by offering exclusive - not reconditioned -  content on-line.

 

Sources: 8 in-person and on-line focus groups of 10 digital media consumers each conducted during the week of January 8, 2018 by Bridge Ratings Media Research. 2500 on-line interviews via questionnaire with persons 13-70 years of age Janurary 2-12, 2018. 

 

How On-line Playlisting Can Save Music Radio

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For music programmers who have been utilizing on-demand streaming data to properly align their on-air music with true music consumption, here's some news: Playlisting has become the dominant way most music fans listen.

At Bridge Ratings we have been tracking music consumption through on-demand streaming services for over four years. We now share this data with our music radio clients seeking to properly align their on-air song exposure to their listeners' actual consumption.

In a typical year we process and analyze hundreds of millions of streams from across the U.S. and, more specifically, by market and station.

Over the past three years we have undertaken an analysis of music streaming consumption and learned almost immediately in the fall of 2015 that playlisting plays a significant role in the way the average person consumes music through on-demand streaming platforms.

Playlist is a term to describe a list of video or audio files that can be played back on a media player sequentially or in random order. In its most general form, an audioplaylist is simply a list of songs, but sometimes a loop.

What We've Learned

  • Among the reasons music fans use playlists when they stream: playlisting allows consumers to differentiate or accentuate favorite songs into personal rotations. 
  • In 2015 at the start of this latest three-year study, most listening was based on individual song selection, i.e. collections of songs on audio players played in a loop or random order, however as the technology of music players (smart phones, etc) and streaming platforms became more sophisticated, playlisting quickly became the primary method of listening.
  • In September 2015 70% of the song streams we analyzed were delivered from an "open source" or individual song selection method by the users. 30% came from playlist creation.
    A year later playlisting was becoming more popular as a majority of the population was participating in streamed music consumption with 43% originating from playlists.
  • By the fall of 2017, playlisting has quickly become the primary way music consumers catalog and listen to songs through streaming platforms. 

How to read: In 2015 30% of our sample created on-demand music playlists. By 2017 this number had grown to 74%.

Playlist creation has become second-nature to the majority of the millions of consumers who stream music in 2017. Knowing which songs are PLAYLISTED opens up a new era of understanding music preferences.
— Dave Van Dyke, President, Bridge Ratings

The Whys of Playlisting

As more music consumers find playlisting to be the preferred way to listen, we were curious as to why playlists are created.

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The nugget in this chart for programmers of music is the 45% who believe that a song placed in a playlist is more important than others that may not have been added to self-created playlists.

By identifying these playlisted songs a new hierarchy of song preference has been revealed.

Playlist Sharing

How to read: Sharing of on-demand music playlists has virtually flip-flopped since 2015 when only 25% of our sample shared their playlists with friends. By 2017, this number has increased to 72%.

Here's more from our just-released study:

  • Sharing of playlists has crossed 50% of music consumers for the first time.
  • 8 out 10 of our sample have created a playlists in the past three months
  • 63% of those who have paid subscriptions use a playlist every time they listen.
  • 59% of streamies who use playlists have listened to their favorite playlists more than 10 times.
  • The most popular playlists are genre-based.
  • 70% of streamers choose a playlist after reviewing just a few songs.
  • 90% of users create playlists for themselves.
  • 66% of playlist creators share their playlists.

How Can Music Radio Benefit?

With playlisting, Radio may be able to reach those who are light listeners or former listeners.
— Dave Van Dyke, President, Bridge Ratings

The last point on the above list is an important one for radio.

With so much playlist sharing going on, traditional radio's reach, music expertise and listener loyalty suggests that with the proper playlists and promotion/marketing radio can not only enhance its current awareness, brand-strength and listener out-reach, but radio may be able to reach those who are light listeners or former listeners.

The final part of our study asked groups of current radio listeners (1+ hrs/day), light radio listeners (1-2hrs/week) and former radio listeners if they would listen to station-created playlists of a) most popular songs for their genre and b) exclusively new music releases appropriate for the genre.

Both current and light radio listeners overwhelmingly were positive about listening to station-created music playlists. Even former radio listeners were somewhat positive, especially regarding playlists of New Releases. This may be traditional radio's route to raising awareness and brand responsiveness among former listeners to radio.

How to read: 82% of current radio listeners were somewhat likely, likely or highly likely to listen to a station-created music playlist of today's most-popular songs for that genre. All three listener-types were more favorable toward playlists featuring the Newest Releases.

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How To Do It

I contacted David Oxenford, partner at the law firm of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, practicing out of its Washington, DC office to determine how a station might be able to offer playlists. His regulatory expertise includes all areas of broadcast law including the FCC’s multiple ownership limitations, the political broadcasting rules, EEO policy etc. 

David explained that stations might be able to approach custom-branded playlisting in two ways:

  1. Reach out to record labels of artists of interest and ask for direct licenses to build playlists that would include their artists. This option may be easier to accomplish if the station offers a New Release playlist every week. Labels like to have their new releases receive greater promotion from radio. Public radio has been very successful with this approach. NPR Music was achieved in the same manner. Further, if the direct license is granted for a limited time, there may not be any cost involved.
  2. Stations can go direct to on-demand streaming platforms like Spotify, and discuss how a station-branded playlist of its favorite New Releases or current hot songs can be placed on the service as "WXXX's Alternative Rock New Release Playlist".  In this scenario, stations would direct listeners on-air to Spotify and let them know the playlist is available by search.

Either example seems simple enough to accomplish. Going direct to the labels to allow a station-branded New Release playlist would fold nicely into this study's finding that offering New Release Playlists for a station's core format is preferred, even among former radio listeners.

Bottom Line?

  • The creation of on-line playlists by music consumers has grown significantly - especially in the last 12 months. 
  • They love to create them for specific lifestyle moments and to create mixes with songs that are particularly important to them.
  • They love to share playlists with friends.
  • There is evidence in our study that both current and former radio listeners would be interested in station-produced playlists, especially playlists focused on new music discovery.
  • Offering station-branded music playlists on-demand can be accomplished.
  • With radio's reach, the promotion of these playlists, steeped in radio's "music expertise" image, could enhance current listener bonding and reintroduce former listeners to a new benefit traditional radio can leverage.

With the rapid raise of playlist use by music consumers, Bridge Ratings will continue to monitor this component of consumption.

Samples
Two sample sets were used for the data in this report. A) 3600 on-demand music streamers ages 12-65, 50/50 Male/Female balance. Margin of Error +/- 1.7

B) "For the Radio-Created Playlist Preferences" portion of this report, three subsets were used: 
     1. 1041 Current radio listeners (1 hr+/day), 12-65 years of age, 53/47 Male/Female Balance  MOE +/- 3.2%
     2. 1000 Light Radio listeners (less than 2 hours per week), 12-65 49/51 Male/Female Balance   MOE +/- 3.2%
     3. 1200 Former Radio listeners, 12-65, 50/50 Male/Female Balance  MOE +/- 2.9%