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. 


At the Crossroads....or past it?

Have you heard of “Trajectories of Industry Change”.

Historically, all industries find themselves faced with gut-wrenching decisions related to remaining relevant.

Compare the lifecycle charts below for MySpace and broadcast radio.

The relevance clock for broadcast radio is nearing midnight which means little time remains for the industry to adapt to the times.

According to author and business strategist Anita McGahan, who observes all types of industries and companies, traditional radio may no longer be at a crossroads, but beyond it and should seriously heed the warning signs presented by new competitive media. She explains that broadcasters are misreading growth clues and may be arriving at false conclusions.

The most important thing to understand, she says, is that all business goes through lifecycles during which obsolescence becomes a real threat to the core of the business. New technologies shake up all industries and all companies at some time are faced with ‘defending their turf’.

So, what has really been going on with the broadcast industry?

Radio has been caught in an evolution as a result of Two Types of Threats of Obsolescence from digital media:

1. A threat to its core activities (those activities of attracting listeners with programming, technology and delivering consumers for advertisers), and

2. A threat to its core assets (durable resources such as talent and programming and intangibles such as programming knowledge and brand capital, that have historically made radio effective at delivering audiences).

Based on the nature of these threats, the broadcast industry has been on a growth curve with the following identities:

Phase 1 (1960-2000) – The Stable Trajectory when neither its core assets nor core activities are jeopardized. During this phase the industry was operating effectively and efficiently, it understood its strengths and weaknesses with no significant outside competitive threat(s).

There was a balance between investing in product and sales.

Persons using radio 1980-2012. Click on image to enlarge.

However, this phase began to weaken after an extended period of wealth and profit-taking. The traditional radio industry had been on a Stable Trajectory until around 2000-2001 when a “perfect storm” of weakening economies coupled with the rise of new technologies began to threaten its core.

Phase 2 (2001-2007) - The Intermediary Trajectory – the period after successful times when the industry began to experience new competition generally aided by new technology when either its core activities or core assets started to become threatened – but not both. It was a time when a “tipping point” was approaching and there was still time to adjust and avoid significant damage to revenues, profits and consumers.

This phase is often characterized by short-term profit-taking as a reaction to this new threat while avoiding investment that could later prevent competitive inroads.

According to Dr. McGahan, the traditional radio industry at this point of the trajectory curve should've fended off attacks to either its core activities or core assets by reinvestment in those core strengths. Defensive strategies should've come from company marketing, product,  sales and technical innovations which would've refreshed perceived obsolescence.

Phase 3 (2008-Present - A Radical Trajectory, the most serious, occurs when core assets and core activities are both threatened with impending obsolescence. Often considered too late in the lifecyle to recover from severe competitive and technological inroads, industries in the radical phase may never be able to infuse enough funding back into the business to fend off the momentum of on-coming competitors. It is often too late for industries in this phase to offset the negative momentum of consumer attrition.

These three trajectories of industry change can be applied to most industries.  Read more here.

With this in mind what path remains for broadcast radio?

I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Your feedback is vital to our company's on-going success. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.


Dave Van Dyke - President