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.


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. 


Podcasting At a Crossroads - The Blog

On January 26, 2016, Bridge Ratings published its latest research on - "Podcasting at a Crossroads".  If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to take a quick look.

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The bottom line of the study was this: Podcasts have such tremendous potential yet its download model fails to provide the platform’s potential - audience growth, ad revenue and value.

The research piece offers a solution to this: streaming rather than podcasting will provide a more comfortable process for listeners and a more reliable way for advertisers to reach their consumers.

We received a good amount of response from this study, particularly from podcasters who seem to be split on the idea of changing the model from downloads to streaming.

I was contacted by Rob Greenlee of Spreaker, a podcast professional with years of experience in this space. Rob produces two podcasts worth a listen: "The New Media Show" and the Spreaker Live Show.


Rob invited me to his Spreaker Live Show and we discussed the findings of this study. if you are a podcaster, this conversation is worth your time.  It is Rob's opinion that the idea of streaming podcasts vs. downloading them is very controversial; one that the industry has been dealing with for some time now.

It seems the podcast community is split on the industry's distribution future.

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During the discussion Rob brought up many good reasons why the download model works and he asked what my thought was on how the industry could best transition to a streaming model.

These were my thoughts:

1. Use cases for podcasts vary. Consumers tend to like the fact that there is little data consumption, though downloading an hour long podcast can consume a lot of memory on smartphones or tablets. Podcasts are popular for travelers on airplanes which generally do not allow for streaming activity. Other uses are preferred based on the environment or lifestyle of the listener.

2. Streaming offers flexibility to podcasters, i.e. offering a combination of download and streaming of the same content is putting the programming wherever the listener is. The highly popular podcast "Serial" now in its second season, managed a million downloads last year and awareness for the platform exploded as much as it did for its very engaging content.

This year, for season two, the folks at "Serial" have also partnered with Pandora which accomplishes two or three major advances. a) The "Serial" podcast is now exposed to millions more users of Pandora and with Pandora's metrics, the "Serial" podcast offers advertisers much more granular data about the listeners thus increasing the program's value.

(The “Serial”) model, we believe, is the transition solution...and is the next step in moving podcasting to a more measureable mass audience.

b) The Pandora piece now offers listeners a unique consumption behavior which we have observed through our research. Listeners could start to listen to the "Serial" podcast on their desktop PCs while at work or at home then stop when need arises and be continued via download on a mobile device. Pandora's application allows users to pick up where they left off making this behavioral shift quite easy.

This model, we believe, is the transition solution Rob and I were discussing and is the next step in moving podcasting to a more measureable mass audience.

Podcasting is at a crossroads. Because there is no overriding governing podcasting organization like the National Association of Broadcasters, any transition to a streaming model will likely occur naturally with individual podcasters taking steps that they are comfortable with.

Unfortunately, this approach will continue the slow growth of the industry.

Most podcasters may not see the benefit of streaming or offering a dual-track platform as described above. The metric improvement for advertising may not apply to their particular need.

Yet there are many podcasts that generate significant audiences and generating revenue is a natural outcome and need for them. The dual-track platform idea makes real sense to them in all likelihood.

So, there's a model usage case that has been proven by "Serial" and Pandora. The thousands of producers of podcast content will have to decide what is best for them. But as our study expresses, the potential for huge growth in 2016 and beyond is significant and whether or not advertising dollars are important to podcasters, there is no denying that the number of people listening will be greatly increased through a streaming model and that alone, perhaps, is reason enough.

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