Unstoppable, Perhaps, but the Internet Does Appear to Be Cooling

At a global penetration of more than 50%, new user growth online remains harder to find. This is just one of the findings in Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2019 report.

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Smartphone unit shipments have declined 4%, and online ad platform revenue is dropping rather significantly:

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That’s not to say digital media is going away; it’s still a multi-billion dollar industry and likely to remain so. What these trends do indicate is a climate in which traditional media ads can gain some traction.

A survey from Two Sides about reading habits for Europeans puts further meat on this,” notes this article in Print Business UK. “It found that 48% expressing concern about the impact of electronic devices on health and 45% believe they spend too much time with electronic devices. It says 70% believe in the importance of being able to switch off.”

Stats like these reflect the growing trend toward digital minimalism and the importance of time away from devices.

“We see these tools, and we have this narrative that, ‘You can do this on Facebook,’ or ‘This new feature on this device means you can do this, which would be convenient.’ What you don’t factor in is, ‘Okay, well what’s the cost in terms of my time attention required to have this device in my life?’ Facebook might have some particular thing that’s valuable, but then you have the average U.S. user spending something like 50 minutes a day on Facebook products,” writes computer scientist Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism: Choose a Focused Life in a Noisy World. “That’s actually a pretty big [amount of life] that you’re now trading in order to get whatever the potential small benefit is.”

According to the Print Business UK article, “69% [of their global survey respondents] find print work best for books, 61% prefer reading printed magazines and 54% prefer newspapers in this way. The UK preferences are slightly lower than this, but are still weighted towards ink on paper.”

Meanwhile, only 11% of the respondents to Impero’s Rebranding Advertising survey say that digital is their favorite form of advertising; in fact, other research supports the idea that consumers are increasingly wary of online content and ads.

No, the internet isn’t going away. But as the Print Business UK article notes, “there is real value on the more mature ways of communicating, print included.”