We Consume How Much Information?!
I came across an article in the New York Times over the Christmas holidays that expressed something we already know in a truly staggering way. According to a new study from the University of California at San Diego, the average person consumes about 34 gigabytes of information each day - an enormous amount of information to process, digest and then act upon. It's also a 350% increase over the last three decades.
The amount of information the average person consumes, via either print, TV, radio, the web or through gaming has severe implications for the ad industry. These consumption trends had, until recently, been most notable in younger demographics. As older demographics continue to flock to the online space and become more tech savvy, it's just a matter of time before all media and ad strategies will have to account for the boom in information exposure across all age groups. The fact that our consumption of information has grown so much, and so fast, gives an entirely new meaning to the concept of "clutter."
So what are some of the implications of these consumption trends?
Media strategies will have to embrace more platforms with an understanding of what each platform adds to the communication goal. The overall TV and radio viewership and listenership numbers haven't declined. In fact, consumers spend more time daily with these media than any other media outlet, and the number of station and channel options available to the consumer has expanded significantly. They are, however, becoming a more passive mode of communication; people are still watching and listening, but they are doing so while engaging in other activities. These media should continue to be utilized, but their objectives may demand re-evaluation. ROI expectations may be better allocated toward more "active" media. The importance of broad reach media like radio and television on overall advertising strategy, however, should not be diminished.
Audiences will continue to become more fragmented, diminishing the effectiveness of broad reach media. We've seen this occur with newspapers. YOY print circulations for local newspapers have declined in virtually every media market in the country. It's not that people are reading less, they are actually reading more, but doing so online. We're also seeing this trend in TV and radio with a proliferation of specialty networks and lower ratings on larger networks. Both of these trends will increase Cost Per Points and Cost Per Thousands, rendering TV and radio less likely to be efficient ROI media.
Relevancy and credibility are just as important as reach and frequency. One of the byproducts to all of this additional information exposure is that consumers are becoming increasingly good at filtering - if not entirely ignoring - unwanted messaging. Advertisers will pay an progressively heavier premiums for spots or ads that are not precisely targeted to environments and platforms reflective of a demographic's consumption trends. Similarly, credibility of where and when an ad runs will become increasingly as important as good creative. Consumers want advertisers who understand their unique interests and needs. They want to see advertisers reach them in ways that are reflective of how they are consuming information.
Online media is not immune from the trends seen in print and broadcast. We have already seen click through rates on banner advertising start to diminish. Though search has blossomed, it will take smarter and evolving search and SEO strategies to compensate for these trends in consumption. It will also require a deeper understanding of what the value and impact of other, broad reach media have in the success of these types of campaigns.
The trends of exploding information consumption are not likely to slow down any time soon. Though research within the media community has noted these shifts in consumption, the impact on the efficiencies of various media may be underestimated. It would behoove advertisers and agencies to understand the gravity of these trends and adjust their ad and media strategies accordingly.