Nine trends in US media consumption: in charts

New data from the measurement company comScore has given us fresh insights into a number of key US media markets. As their report shows, “longstanding consumer habits continue to be upended.” 

However, instead of suggesting that the media landscape is becoming more ‘fragmented’ the authors contend that “a more accurate description might be that it’s becoming increasingly interconnected, with consumers seamlessly accessing content across more screens than ever before.”

Here are nine charts from their 70-page report which we thought were worth noting. 

1.    Mobile is driving digital media growth

Desktop audiences are still significant for media publishers; but smartphones are the platform to watch. Between 2013-15 viewing of content on these devices grew by 78%, compared to 30% for tablets.

Nonetheless, although audiences are viewing less content via their desktop, viewing (in terms of total minutes) via this platform is still more than three times that of total tablet viewing.

Tablet use – like smartphones – is growing, but the resilience of the desktop audience should not be overlooked. It’s still a significant market.

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2.    Digital trumps TV for millennials

 TV, like the desktop, is not dead yet. Far from it. It still accounts for 70% of media consumed by the over 55s; and nearly 60% of time spent on media by those aged 35-54.

 However, the picture among younger audiences in the US is quite different. Mobile already accounts for 40% of their total media time; and when combined with desktop online media constitutes over half of this cohort’s media usage. Of course some of this time will be spent on “TV-like” behaviours, but it demonstrates a dramatic shift in terms of device usage. 

And with only 7% difference between time spent on mobile vs. time spent watching TV, how longer before mobile occupies more than half of all media time for audiences aged 18-34? 

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3.    But collectively TV is stronger than ever

It’s not just media critics who seem to agree that we’re living in a Golden Age of Television.

comScore’s data demonstrates that households are watching both more live TV and more content on our DVRs. Viewing hours on each of these platforms increased by +7% year-on-year, with the average household watching more than 1,000 hours of live TV a quarter.

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4.    Apps are growing part of the mobile experience 

Taken in aggregate, nearly two-thirds of digital media consumption is on mobile. Within that, in-app activity represents a sizeable percentage of this time.

In the last two years’ time spent on mobile and smartphone apps has overtaken the desktop. Although overall desktop usage has flatlined, the growth of mobile and apps means that desktop usage comprises an increasingly small percentage of the digital media pie.

As publishers and – more importantly – platforms like Facebook, focus their efforts to build digital walled gardens and stickier apps, so we can expect to see the mobile experience increasingly being an app-driven one. Mobile vs App hours are likely to become one and the same; and a source of further growth as mobile continues to drive our digital media habits.

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5.     Social media represents nearly 20% of our time online

Social networks are responsible for almost one-fifth (19%) of our total time on the internet; an aggregated figure which is only likely to be higher with younger demographics. This genre of media dwarfs other categories such as multimedia (12%), radio (8%) or online gaming (5%).

Many of these genres – such as instant messaging, retail/e-commerce or news and information – are all areas that social media companies are focusing their attention; adding new services, partnerships or layers to their offering to increase the stickiness of their service. As a result, we can expect social media share of online usage to grow, as these behaviors become increasingly absorbed into social networks’ sphere of influence.

As a side note, it’s also interesting to note the size of the internet’s “long tail” which is manifest in the fact that 34% of online usage is classified by comScore as “other” – a category for usage which brings together genres with less than 4% of audience attention.

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6.    Facebook still dominates the social web, even with millennials

One of the standout statistics from the report is that: 

Facebook usage overall accounts for 1 in every 6 minutes spent online, and more than 1 in 5 minutes spent on mobile. 

Collectively, the Facebook family – the original social network, messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp – account for 17.2% of time spent on digital media in the US. That percentage grows to more than 21% when looking at mobile and smartphone habits.

Meanwhile, for all of the talk about Facebook fatigue, it’s worth noting that the social network still dominates both penetration and engagement levels with the advertiser friendly 18-34 market.

Facebook is the only network to enjoy more than 1,000 minutes use a month (Snapchat is next at 400 average monthly minutes) and with nearly 100% of this young demographic using the services, it’s more than 30% ahead of the next most popular social network (Instagram).

More widely, 18-34s make-up 36.8% of Facebook’s audience in the USA. Snapchat, the ephemeral messaging platform, is the social channel which skews the youngest. A whopping 76% of its American user-base is aged 18-34.

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 7.    Some publishers are harnessing these dynamics to grow their audience

Two traditional print publishers – Time Inc. and Hearst – reached 100 million monthly unique visitors for the first time in 2015.

Hitting this milestone demonstrates their increasing ability to expand their digital audience; putting them in the same space as LinkedIn and Twitter, both of whom also reached this landmark in the last year.

For Time and Hearst, this statistic reflects discernible digital growth during the previous twelve months. Other outlets enjoying a substantial increase in digital audience at the end of 2015 include the Washington Post (78%), Dow Jones and Company (56%) and Conde Nast (46%).

Even those titles experiencing small growth spurts – such as the Guardian and Bloomberg –nonetheless, are still seeing a rise in their digital traffic year-on-year.

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8.    Digital audiences are increasingly large

“Over the past two years,” the report notes, “digital media audiences of the Top 1000 properties have surged to an average 16.8 million visitors per month.”

At the top of this digital pile 21 properties enjoy a monthly audience in excess of 100 million unique visitors and a further 43 have a reach of 50-100 million.

Mobile, and to a lesser extent social, have clearly been drivers for this. As a result, “mobile is no longer a secondary digital touchpoint for many publishers,” the report observes.

They go on to note: “the average Top 10 digital media property has 37% of its audience visiting only on mobile” whilst “6 of the Top 10 have larger mobile-only audiences than desktop-only audiences.”

However, for all of the change in audience habits, there has been little change in the owners of the content and services they consume. Google sites, followed by Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft and AOL, sit at the apex of this digital summit, ensuring that the digital charts retain a very traditional feel.

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9.    The mobile opportunity lies with converting traditional content users

Desktop traffic is driven by portals, business and finance, content categories which characteristically skew older. In contrast, those categories with a higher mobile audience – social networks, online gaming, photos and maps – are more likely to be those typically used by younger audiences.

This conclusion suggests that perhaps the next major phase of mobile’s growth will involve a broader demographic base, as desktop users transition to mobile-friendly services and habits.

Encouraging this migration will require good products and UX. Many of the most popular mobile content categories feature content and services which are native to that platform. Replicating this, as these categories are refreshed, is potentially the next big mobile land grab.

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Damian Radcliffe (@damianradcliffe) is the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon and a former guest editor of TheMediaBriefing. 

By | 2016-05-03T00:01:00+00:00 May 3rd, 2016|Analysis|Comments Off on Nine trends in US media consumption: in charts

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