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In the Year 2020: Preparing for Future Trends in Media Consumption

Researchers are Predicting Media Trends for 2020. Communications Strategists Should Take Note.

Sarah Harkins
Jul 31, 2017 · 4 min read

Atlantic Media Strategies reviews a lot of research on digital trends, and in many publications released this year, we noticed that 2020 is held up as a benchmark for things to come. It’s less than three years away, but that time will move quickly. To prepare organizations for the changes to come, we’ve synthesized researchers’ predictions into four trends we think will shape Americans’ media consumption habits in 2020.

1. Our Rates of Media Consumption Won’t Increase

Audiences are projected to level off their media consumption in the coming years. Research firms are already seeing slowed growth of around 1% year-over-year. As audiences’ consumption habits level off, competition for their attention is expected to increase. Organizations should remain willing to try the recommendations below, as well as other new developments, in order to remain relevant during such changes.

2. We’ll Love Our Smart Speakers

We’ve all imagined what it would be like to have a robot butler. In 2020, we’ll be one step closer to achieving that. It’s estimated that by 2021 roughly 2 billion people will be using a digital assistant and 50% of all search queries will be conducted through voice search.

Digital assistants may not have the same capabilities as a robot butler, but they will be extraordinarily useful. Some, like Siri, are already useful on smartphones, but smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are bringing digital assistants into the home. The market for such smart speakers is expected to expand in the next three to five years as more manufacturers produce similar devices.

Smart speakers are already popular with current owners, 65 percent of whom say they wouldn’t want to go back to their life before smart speakers. Seventy percent of these owners say they are listening to more audio than they did before they owned a speaker, using it for news, weather, and music, among other tasks.

The smart speaker industry is preparing for even more capabilities. Amazon’s Echo Dot commercials have illustrated the value of having a hands-free device, and brands like Campbell’s have jumped on the hands-free trend by creating recipe skills that will read off steps and ingredients to the home chef.

What communications strategists should take away

Organizations and companies can prepare for widespread use of smart speakers by considering audio’s unique use cases in the home, for example, BuzzFeed’s Reporting to You program imagines the listener catching up on the latest news as they get ready in the morning. Stories last between two and four minutes, the time it might take to prepare coffee or eat your oatmeal. If you’re looking for more inspiration, CNET has created a list of 35 of Alexa’s most useful skills that span interests from travel to finance.

3. We’ll Use Our Smartphone Cameras Even More

Our smartphone cameras will play a big role in media consumption, but not in the social sharing applications we’ve come to expect. Earlier this year, Google announced its Lens product, which will allows users to search for items by taking a photo. The feature hasn’t been released, but the market for image search recognition is predicted to surpass $25 billion by 2019. Image search will be used to drive audiences to organizations’ content or products, but expect social media to create further unique opportunities. Pinterest is already developing applications for recommending content.

Smartphone cameras will also open environments for sharing content through the use of augmented reality. Companies like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google have made big investments in the technology, and by 2020, AR is expected to reach $120 billion in sales.

Some are predicting that Apple’s ARKit, a tool that helps developers create augmented reality applications for the iPhone and iPad, is opening the door for greater functionality. Developers have used the kit to create a measuring tape app, and IKEA has expressed interest in creating an app that would let audiences view furniture in their homes. Games like Pokemon Go also hint at what might be possible for organizations interested in experimenting with narrative and geolocation.

What communications strategists should take away

Organizations will have the opportunity to create more immersive experiences. This could be through overlaying information into the real world or through weaving storytelling elements into the audience’s environment. Consider The New York Times’ T-Brand Studio’s Outthink Hidden app, which educated users about the women who worked at NASA during the 1950s through a virtual scavenger hunt that was based on a person’s physical location.

4. We’ll Be Divided Between Television and Internet

By 2019, audiences will spend almost the same amount of time watching television as they will browsing the internet. The average person will spend slightly over 2.6 hours a day browsing the internet and 2.7 hours a day watching television. Of that 2.6 hours online, 45 minutes is predicted to be spent watching online videos from a smartphone.

Television producers are already preparing. In the past few months, NBC News committed to a Snapchat series and the CEO of AT&T suggested that shows like Game of Thrones could be shortened for mobile devices.

What communications strategists should take away

So far, publishers and producers are focused on creating shorter shows that can be consumed between other smartphone activities, but organizations should consider other factors that could make watching and sharing online video more entertaining, for example, Twitter, Facebook Live, and Twitch have made live-streaming video engaging by allowing viewers to comment and react in real time.

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