Understanding Media Trends & Consumption

In this module, we discuss:

  • Present-day digital media trends, and how they will impact the future of digital media consumption


  • Sticky Content - content published on a website, which has the purpose of getting a consumer to return to that particular site, or hold their attention and get them to spend longer periods of time on it
  • Native Advertising - a type of advertising, usually online but feasibly elsewhere, that matches the form and function of the platform or channel upon which it appears
  • Churn - when customers end their relationship with a business
  • eCPMs - advertising revenue generated per 1,000 impressions, calculated by dividing total earnings by the total number of impressions in thousands

Digital media trends and consumption can be viewed through these primary lenses:

  • Consumer Expectations
  • Allocation of Attention
  • Platforms and Channels
  • Content

Let's take a look into each lens:

Consumer Expectations

Content consumers have the following expectations for the media they consume, and how they consume it:

  • On-demand and optimized for every device
  • Improves their lives (see: Meaningful Brands®)
  • Free of cost or personalized pricing

Allocation of Attention

In 2015, the average U.S. adult spent almost 3 hours per day consuming digital media on mobile devices, which represents half of total digital media consumption per day. That is an increase of two hours (or 24 percent) from 2011, and two-and-a-half hours (or 39 percent) from 2008.

As digital media consumption on mobile devices continues to experience an upward trend, and since an estimated 2 billion consumers worldwide are expected to own a smartphone by 2016, it is important to take into account the following:

  • In order to maximize engagement and the desired effect of sticky content, media must be automatically responsive to the device on which it is consumed.
  • Consumers have shorter attention spans on mobile devices, in part because they are often multitasking and/or subject to many distractions — both within the device and outside of it.
  • When seeking out information on a mobile device, people often feel time pressure, a situation where our need for time exceeds the amount of time currently available to us, which "encourages individuals to rule out products based on the one attribute they don't like rather than optimize based on the many attributes that they do like," according to Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.
  • Many mobile device users cannot listen to audio portions of a piece of content, such as videos, because they are in environments not conducive to hearing — like out in public or in an office — and do not have earphones readily available. That is why you see more online videos equipped with closed captions, which allow consumers to watch videos without needing the audio portion to understand the content.

Even though more people are consuming more digital media through mobile devices, digital media consumption on desktop and laptop computers is certainly not dead. In fact, the average U.S. adult spent two-and-a-half hours per day (or 42 percent of their daily digital media consumption) consuming digital media on computers1 in 2015, an increase of 12 minutes from 2008.

Therefore, mobile devices are not stealing eyeballs from desktop and laptop computers, which means they must be detracting attention from traditional media, like television, radio, magazines and newspapers.


While this course is not one in technology, it would be irresponsible to not call out the developments in digital media consumption -- most notably with wearables (e.g. the Apple Watch), the Internet of Things, and virtual and augmented reality.

In general, as more technologies through which we can consume content are developed — remember: content is everything we receive, consume and share on any device — the more segmented consumer attention will become, which in turn will further segment marketing strategies.

Platforms & Channels

We know that today's consumers are seeking out individual websites less frequently, instead opting to receive content by having it delivered to them through email, social media, apps and the like.

That is precisely why the last handful of social media networks to make it big were designed as mobile-only or mobile-first platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, and most recently Anchor and musical.ly.

Facebook and YouTube have followed suit with formidable mobile apps of their own, while Pinterest (which has a mobile app but was really designed for optimal use on a computer) has seen engagement drop by 49 percent.

Among the keys to these mobile-only or mobile-first platforms are immediacy and on-demand accessibility, which reflect how digital media consumers want content.

Social search has also played a major role in how digital media consumers find content, which is why every major social media network has built-in robust search functions, Google has partnered with Twitter, and the social journalism platform Medium has enjoyed early success.

Not to mention, and irrespective of the Google-Twitter partnership, search engines have exponentially increased the percentage of social media content that appears in search results.


During Web 1.0 (circa 1995-2006), the Internet was largely viewed and used as a place to access information, whereas television, film and radio continued their dominance as the primary sources of audio and audio-visual media entertainment.

However, now that we are fully immersed in Web 2.0 (marked by the widespread use of social media), the Internet is becoming the primary source of audio and audio-visual media entertainment.

For example, Facebook and Snapchat each garner billions of video views per day, while the live-streaming app Periscope (which is owned by Twitter) gets more than 40 years worth of live video watched daily. (We already know how successful YouTube and Netflix have been at diverting eyeballs away from the television and movie theater screens.)

In terms of audio entertainment, the trend in podcast listenership is also starting to take off. According to Edison Research, 33 percent of all Americans 12 years of age or older say they have listened to at least one podcast; 17 percent had listened to a podcast in the last month, and 10 percent had listened to one in the last week. The research also found that 35 percent of the total respondents and 58 percent of podcast consumers have listened to a podcast in their cars (effectively replacing radio).

Based on the attention deficit that is at the core of the Attention Economy, the more time and attention consumers give to digital media of any kind, the less time and attention they can give to other types of media, such as television, radio, magazines and newspapers. In other words, these other types of media as we know them are dying a slow death.


While banner ads, search engine advertising (like Google AdWords) and other digital paid media methods are still very much prevalent, online advertising has taken on a new dimension in recent years: native advertising.

Within native advertising, there are three primary classifications:

  1. Social media-native
  2. Native-style display ads, and
  3. Sponsored content

A report produced by BI Intelligence found that spending on native ads will grow to $21 billion in 2018, an increase from nearly $5 billion in 2013.

Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of all mobile display ads will become native ads by 2020, backed by $53 billion in total advertiser spending, according to research conducted by global business analyst IHS Technology. The study also found that consumers engage with native ads 20-to-60 percent more than standard banner ads.

Yoav Arnstein writes on Facebook's Audience Network blog that native advertising "is less likely to lead to churn and ad fatigue, and drives higher retention rates (up to three times), eCPMs (up to two times) and click-through rates."

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