Last week saw the publication of Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report. As always, the mammoth slidedeck – this year clocking in at 213 pages – attracted a lot of media attention. However, as usual, much of this focused on a few key slides, leaving TheMediaBriefing to produce a more detailed analysis of the implications for publishers.
Much of this reaffirms individual developments that we’ve been writing about for some time, but reviewing Meeker’s slides also gives us an opportunity to bring together the key strategic messages that media companies need to be considering in mid-2016. Here are the top 10 lessons that we believe most media strategists should be considering, if they’re not already.
1. India is the land of digital opportunity
There are now 3 billion internet users around the world, akin to 42 percent of the global population. The number of online users continues to grow but the speed of uptake has levelled off; reaching the next billion will be challenging due to high costs of connectivity and low levels of tech literacy.
Against this backdrop, India offers a welcome contrast. With 277 million users, there are now more people online in the sub-continent than the USA. Only China has more internet users.
With a growing middle class and a large population who read – and speak – English, this confluence offers a potential sweet spot for English language publishers. As a result, India is a market that highly valued Western media brands should be considering.
2. Asia Pacific should be the home of the next mobile land-grab
Meeker’s slides remind us that – despite the Apple fanboys – nearly 80 percent of all smartphone connections globally are on Android.
And just as global internet penetration is slowing, so too is the growth curve for new smartphone users and shipments (the latter probably as a result of existing users hang on to their phones for longer).
As a result, the largest user market is now comfortably the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Home to 4.4 billion people – some 60 percent of the world’s population, according to the UN – this region still offers considerable scope for smartphone growth.
The challenge for Western publishers is the popularity of regionally grown apps and services. Breaking into this indigenous market with new services may be difficult, but opportunities abound for publishers who embrace the platforms originating from the region.
As Digiday reported in Feburary, Line is The Wall Street Journal’s fastest-growing platform, and it was the world’s fastest-growing global social media app in 2016. Given this, it’s no wonder that companies like the WSJ, BBC and The Economist all have a presence on it.
3. Messaging apps are the new social
Want to see where services like Facebook Messenger or Snapchat are heading? Then look no further than at services like WeChat, Line and Kakao Talk.
These platforms – with integrated functionality including eCommerce, calls, texts, stickers and the ability to order both food and taxis – offer a handy one-stop shop for their users. This Sauron-esque UX (“one app to rule them all”) is part of a wider trend that is “re-imaging communication.”
Facebook’s decision to force mobile users onto a separate app if they want to chat to friends, along with aspirations for this tool to become a customer service platform as well as a home to an army of bots, are trends already manifest (or coming) on its Asian-born rivals.
4. We’ve yet to see peak Snapchat
Although Facebook remains the world’s largest social network, Snapchat’s growth continues to be impressive. Despite the fact that its reach (at an estimated 200m monthly users) is still relatively small, especially outside of North America, the ephemeral network has overtaken Twitter in terms of daily users.
And as every schoolboy knows, it’s not size that matters, it’s what you do with it.
Snapchat’s userbase is incredibly, er, sticky; now viewing 10 billion videos a day. Moreover, Meeker tells us that the the “top performing channels (on Snapchat Discover) average 6-7 minutes, per Snapchatter, per day.”
These are metrics many newspaper apps and websites would kill for.
5. Social video is evolving: fast
Autoplay and 360 videos are just some of the innovations we’ve seen in online video in the past year, with Snapchat’s curated Live Stories service also coming into its own.
To this we can still add nascent services like Periscope (still only just over a year old) and, of course, Facebook Live. Creating new opportunities for watermelon fetishists, traditional media companies and the next evolution of user generated content.
Driven by smartphones, the next stage of the video revolution is creating new opportunities for creativity and social sharing, among consumers and brands alike. Monetising this may be a challenge. But Snapchat, and others, have shown that it can be done.
As Meeker notes:
6. Video, native advertising and filters may help circumvent ad-blocking
Although there’s still the option of simply making better ads.
Either way, Meeker’s slides were unequivocal in demonstrating that adblocking is a global phenomenon. The majority of global adblockers, she reports, are found in populous nations such as China, India and Indonesia; a story which is too often overlooked when this topic is discussed.
7. Move over Millennials, Gen Z is hot on your heels
Also overlooked, is that for all our obsession with Millennials, a new media generation is already emerging. Generation Z – consumers aged 1-20 – is different Meeker says.
So, if you’re not already thinking about this demographic, you’re going to need to fast.
This is a cohort who really are digital native. They’re proficient multi-screeners, who have different attitudes – and media habits – to their older Millennial siblings.
8. Visuals are the new text and Pinterest may be a sleeping giant
Their visual focus may be a key driver in the continued growth of services like Snapchat and Instagram. The number of photos and videos shared on major social networks has more than doubled in the past two years; with no sign of this abating.
Against this backdrop, Pinterest could be a dark horse. The image saving service is not just a home for holiday ideas, kitchen designs and a bucket list for shoe lovers. Meeker’s research found that 15 percent of users view videos on the services, and 10 percent use it for news.
Should media companies be focusing more attention on this platform and less on Tumblr and other second-tier networks with similar visual blogging functionality? That may be one to ponder.
9. Do voice assistants dream of electronic news?
Meeker highlights the growth of voice assistants, but doesn’t join the dots between this uptake and the emergence of interactive services, such as Quartz’s chat-like news app, or the Washington Post’s Kik bot.
Could these type of services become voice driven – as well as delivered – offering a new type of personalised and curated news and media experience?
One thing’s for sure, Meeker’s detailed exploration of how computing is changing cars and transportation hints at the possibilities of a new on-the-move media experience.
Self-driving cars will give us more time, while more tailored services are likely to signal the end of the traditional broadcast radio show. As we begin to reach saturation point for media consumption, revolutionising our commute remains one of the few untapped media frontiers.
10. Advertising, one day, will surely truly embrace mobile
Finally, it would be remiss of me to produce this round-up without highlighting the most shared slide in Meeker’s deck. As has been noted in previous years, traditional media continues to punch above its weight in advertising terms, with print in particular outperforming the rest in terms of revenue vs eyeballs.
Although advertising spend on mobile is increasing year-on-year in the States (with desktop spend, interestingly, holding steady) there remains a huge gap between the amount of time spent consuming mobile on media, versus the amount of advertising spend it attracts.
Meeker’s data reveals that mobile users in the States spend 5 hours a day on their phone. Across the rest of the world, this figure is a little lower (4 hours a day) but still significant. This dwarfs other platforms, including television.
It can only be a matter of time before advertisers wake up to this fact and begin to migrate their ad spend away from traditional platforms. This realignment will be painful. And for many organisations, the implications will be brutal.
As a result, traditional media companies need to double-down on their efforts to diversify their revenues and identify new sources of revenue. An advertising apocalypse is coming. It’s just a question of when.
Damian Radcliffe (@damianradcliffe) is the Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism at the University of Oregon and a former guest editor of TheMediaBriefing.
Before moving to the USA last year he led new creative and research initiatives at the BBC, Ofcom (the UK Communications Regulator), Volunteering Matters – a UK NGO – The Local Radio Company and Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR).
Damian is also an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture Studies, and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).