Video Killed the Radio Star
I come back home after a long day at work, where I spend 7–8 hours in front of a screen because my job is office-tied for most of the time. There are days of endless meetings and on-field work, but on average, it consists of task- and people-management, writing reports and PowerPoint presentations.
As I sit in my living room, there’s background noise coming from the TV, while I simultaneously take off my bra (at last — cue in Etta James) and frantically scroll through all my social media channels to see what I have missed throughout the day. Sometimes the #FOMO is real. After all, I spend more time at the office than I do anywhere else, and Instagram keeps bombarding me with ads from influencers saying “How I quit my 9 to 5 job and earn a lot while travelling the world”. Below the belt, Instagram, below the belt. But I digress.
Reflecting on all the time I spend in front of a screen on an average day makes me feel like I am a part of an upcoming Black Mirror episode. It would probably be about an ambitious marketer who gets sucked into the world of all the ads she ever placed across all media channels, traditional and digital.
And, as it would be in my worst nightmare, people would change channels on their TVs, not even think about buying the newspapers, and scroll past the dynamic banners where I, being trapped inside, would be using flashing signs to get their attention and help in getting out.
By now you might be laughing and saying that it is wishful thinking — at the end of the day, TV is dying, and newspapers are already dead. So, the only thing that would happen is that I would get an occasional Facebook Ad click, or an extra like on a sponsored post on Instagram.
While you may be partly right about some of it, GlobalWebIndex researched digital vs traditional media consumption, and things for traditional media might not be looking as grave as you thought.
What they came to discover after analysing 41 markets split by age groups on day-to-day media use, is that traditional forms of media are not actually being abandoned. Despite constant claims that the internet is taking people away from other media formats, most are actually holding their own. While results regarding exposure vary between different age groups, TV still accounts for almost 20% of the average consumer’s daily media time. Moreover, it is the single biggest daily media activity in all markets, of course, only after social media.
Although most users indeed spend more time online than they do on TV, radio, games consoles, and radio combined, the majority of those 6 ¾ hours online is devoted to social media (2h20min). It is followed by music streaming services, then online TV, and the rest. The time spent on Netflix rises by the year — going from 25% of internet users globally that said they had used it in the previous month in 2017, to 38% in 2018. If they continue producing series like Stranger Things and Mindhunter, I suspect that this year’s stats will be even higher (and I will be a big part of those to blame).
The different age groups have varying habits in media consumption, which gradually decreases with age. The younger audiences (16–34) are the heaviest users of media in general, but the time spent is heavily concentrated online, amounting to 65% of their total media consumption. 46%, or 3 hours and 15 minutes, of their time online is spent on their mobiles. What comes as a surprise, though, is that these age groups read the most traditional print press from all included categories.
On the other hand, when looking at the age groups 34–65+, the total media time gradually decreases, as does time spent online, while time devoted to TV increases. Time spent reading print press also decreases, which is contradictory to the wide-spread perception that press faces the biggest challenge when trying to engage the young, tech-savvy audience.
It is essential to understand the concept of second- or dual-screening, which is done by 87% of internet users, and essentially means using 2 screens at the same time, like watching TV and staring at your phone. Mobiles are the clear favourite for second-screening, most likely to be used on social media platforms (63%) to “stalk” friends and strangers alike. 60% use it to chat with friends via messaging services, and 45% workaholics to read their emails.
What is interesting to note is that, frequently, second-screening is connected to the content shown on the 1st screen. 33% search for information related to the content being watched, 18% of viewers share their opinion of a TV show, and 17% interact with its online content. So even though the second screen is currently seen as a distraction rather than a place to drive additional engagement, it does give a new perspective that second-screening can be more of a complement than a competitor to TV.
The Norwegian series Skam had understood the complementary nature of TV and digital back in 2015. The plot of the TV show revolves around the daily lives of teenagers at the Hartvig Nissen School, a gymnasium in the wealthy borough of Frogner in West End Oslo. NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster, realised that their core audience is a young, distracted group of Generation Zs that don’t know how the world existed before the internet and social media. So what did they do?
Recognising the role of technology and media in teenage life, NRK first integrated its use into the protagonists’ lives, showing how it changes the way universally human experiences, challenges, and wonders manifest in their relationships. To top it up, they created authentic Instagram profiles for the main characters, using personal communication expressed in teenagers’ social slang. During the week, they posted bits and teasers about the upcoming episodes, keeping the viewers continuously engaged across platforms.
it’s not what we do with it, but what it’s doing to us.
99 per cent of all statistics only tell 49 per cent of the story
While there is a lot more statistics available to be discussed concerning different trends in various markets and age-groups around the world, as Ron DeLegge wrote, we would still be looking only at half of the whole story. We can discuss the use of mobile, TV and all the other available forms of media, all the while missing one of the most important bits — how is all of that affecting the human experience?
We are more connected than ever, but more isolated. We have more choices than ever, but we feel more trapped. We have so many opportunities, but we are more anxious to take any of them — with so many things available to us, how do we even know which one is the right one?
While Barry Schwartz initially wrote The Paradox of Choice in the context of consumer choice, I believe that it applies to all aspects of human existence in today’s globalising, technology-ridden world. In the book, he argues that it is a psychologically daunting task to have to evaluate each option available to us and its alternative, which becomes even more overwhelming with each additional choice we have.
And now, options seem endless. We often spend hours deciding which film to watch on Netflix, HBO, or any other streaming site that offers hundreds of picks specifically tailored to our preferences. We can’t decide what kind of take-out we will have for dinner because hundreds of restaurants will deliver food to our doorstep only with a click on an app. And we switch to our ‘explore, compare and contrast mode’ when we are faced with making any type of purchase decision, be it shopping for clothes, technology, or planning a trip, fueled by our affinity to dig through social media and endless review sites until we find the “best” version of any given service or product.
Different types of media are here to stay. Whether linear or digital, print or online, they will continue to occupy a big part of our everyday lives and shape how we see the world and receive information. With the development of new technologies, I can say without a doubt that new types of mediums will emerge, and only time will tell whether they will be complementing, competing with, or killing the existing ones.
But before we all become a part of a twisted, high-tech Black Mirror dream-like reality, we have to remember — our attention and lives are more than screen-deep. We should acknowledge the dynamic and interactive relationship between media and our society at large, realise its impact on us as individuals, and study how it influences our interpretation of data, our development, and our choices. Instead of letting the vast amount of information overwhelm us, we should learn to use it as a tool that will develop our critical thinking skills, helping us look through the content that is irrelevant, unnecessary, or fake. And rather than trying to know everything, let’s focus on those things that are worth knowing.