Have we reached peak media?
“There’s a saturation point, definitely,” said Wired’s then editor-in-chief Scott Dadich. “The personal outlook of how many phone minutes I spend per day has increased past the point of my liking, for sure. E-mail drives so much of that. I think there are practical limits to how much we can take on. That will take shape in discarding certain platforms or moving deeper behaviors to others,” he said at the time.
If recent news from Nielsen is any indication, it appears we may have reached that point.
“According to Nielsen’s Q3 2018 Total Audience Report, U.S. adults spent an average of 10 hours and 30 minutes per day connected to media, about the same amount as a year ago,” writes Sara Jerde in AdWeek.
Jerde notes the shifts in where that time is being spent – more internet-connected devices and apps are – but overall time spent has flatlined for the past two years.
“Viewing is seasonal, but our consumption average has only increased over the years,” Jerde continues. “Previous Nielsen figures show that in 2002, the typical adult consumed 50 hours of media per week. That number swelled to 80 hours in 2016, largely driven by the additional screens in the marketplace, which includes smartphones and tablets.”
An interesting note: These figures include “simultaneous usage across devices” that may be skewing total viewership hours. We all know the drill – you’ve got a Netflix series running the background while you’re checking your NCAA bracket results. Factor that out, and we may actually see total time dropping, in favor of non-connected activities. This is just my supposition, but it makes sense from my experience.
What does it mean for brands if people really are moving toward less digital content consumption? Can brands make the existential shift from collecting eyeballs to true engagement?
Let’s look at what I wrote three years ago and see if still holds water:
It’s the age of peak content – brands have created so much content that the attention economy is on the verge of collapse. There are ways to use audience data to engage and foster relationships, according to Rian Liebenberg of Schibsted:
“…user-centric publishing models force a publisher to really think about personalisation or personal journalism where you really have to rethink the paradigms around how you do storytelling, how you engage audiences and have a discussion around that topic,” Liebenberg said at a recent media summit.
“To do that you need to understand your audiences in a lot more depth with a lot more clarity… so real-time data, capturing performances and using that to optimise your news as well as related content… [is vital].”
Brands that figure this out will be able to survive the dangers ahead for publishing.
Indeed, we have seen this play out. The media brands that have crossed the gap into profitability over the last few years have one thing in common – a laser focus on being relevant to the audience they need to reach. If their online attention is flatlining, it makes even more sense than ever to engage in print.
Whether you’re appealing to your ad partners, or directly to your readers, the real secret to ending up on the far side of the profitability gap – and the looming attention gap – is this faithful attention to your audience and what they need.