Consumers grapple with an overwhelming array of choices and confusion in an era of rapidly evolving streaming services. The streaming landscape has recently witnessed significant shifts, with established players like Netflix and Disney+ introducing ad-supported tiers, Peacock discontinuing its free tier, and anticipation around the impact of Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing.
In this context, HUB’s Best Bundle study aims to shed light on how consumers adapt to the evolving TV/streaming space and land upon the the ideal combination of services that suit their viewing needs. It delves into the extent to which viewers opt for linear versus on-demand services, ad-supported versus ad-free experiences, and subscription-based versus free streaming services. By examining these variables, the study aims to decipher consumers’ choices when constructing their personalized bundles.
The research shows a notable decline in the average number of TV sources used by respondents from 7.4 in 2022 to 6.4 in 2023. This decline suggests that consumers are consolidating their streaming services and opting for a more streamlined approach to their TV viewing experience. While the average of TV sources declined, the overall demand for streaming services remains robust.
Though the use of streaming remained the same compared to last year, responses with an MVPD bundle dropped to 55% versus 62% in 2022. Consumers continue to embrace streaming as their primary source of entertainment, and the decline in the number of sources used does not imply a decrease in consumption. Instead, it signifies a more focused and curated approach to streaming, where viewers prioritize quality over quantity.
Interestingly the largest segment of viewers (63%) continues to be those who utilize a combination of traditional and streaming TV sources. This remains consistent with last year (64%) and indicates that traditional TV sources remain relevant in the face of the streaming revolution.
The study reveals that 27% of viewers plan to add a subscription to their existing lineup, which is higher than the figure in 2021 (21%). While this shows a continued consumer interest in expanding streaming options, it also suggests a slight decrease from the previous year, as 33% of viewers intended to add a subscription in 2022.
Furthermore, more than half of respondents (57%) state that they have utilized at least one free-with-ads (FAST) TV service, which aligns with 2022 findings. This suggests that despite the proliferation of subscription-based services, free platforms with advertising support continue to attract many viewers. Cost-saving advantages of free services are attractive, and advertisements for access to content are tolerable.
The study also highlights a decline in the percentage of viewers who use three or more of the largest subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms. In 2023, only 43% of viewers report using three or more of these SVOD services, compared to 50% in the previous year.
Hub’s Best Bundle research points to a nuanced streaming landscape, with viewers seeking a balance between traditional TV sources and streaming platforms. While streaming services are immensely popular, traditional TV sources still play a significant role in viewers’ entertainment consumption. The addition of new subscriptions indicates that viewers are willing to explore and invest in streaming services, although the growth rate has slowed slightly compared to previous years. Further, as the streaming landscape continues to evolve, service providers must take note of viewers’ shifting preferences. Streaming platforms can attract and retain viewers in an increasingly competitive market by offering diverse content, personalized recommendations, and competitive pricing.
Digital news media is continuously battling for reader attention. With fierce competition for engagement and loyalty, it is crucial to identify what drives online news consumption. A newly released study, Negativity drives online news consumption, analyzes news headlines’ impact on news consumption. The findings confirm that negative emotional words in news headlines increase consumption rates. However, the dataset is from 2013 to 2015. So, while the results are certainly worth consideration, it is important to consider whether the same would hold true today.
Methodology and analysis
This study comprises 22,743 randomized control trials (RCTs) with over 105,000 different variations of news headlines from Upworthy. Each random control test compares different variations of news headlines, an average of 4.31 variations, that all belong to the same news story. The headline variations are then compared to the generated click-through rate (CTR), defined as the ratio of clicks per impression.
The headlines generated approximately 5.7 million clicks and more than 370 million impressions. The research notes that the results are comparable to traditional news sites. However, Upworthy differs from traditional news sources due to their early ‘click-bait’ headline practices. Therefore, there might not be a direct parallel to the headline practices of other types of news sites.
The research shows that a higher share of negative language in news headlines increases click-throughs, and a higher percentage of positive language decreases them. Headlines with an average length of approximately 15 words with a single negative word increase the click-through rates by 2.3%. In contrast, including a positive word in a news headline significantly decreases the likelihood of CTR by about 1.0%.
Overall, positive words are more common than negative words in the headlines analyzed ‒ 2.83% were positive words versus 2.62% negative words. Click-throughs overall are low, with the average CTR across all trial experiments at 1.39%, and the median click rate at 1.07%. Only a small proportion of the news headlines tested were associated with a high CTR.
The research also tests headlines across various news topics – economics, entertainment, lifestyle, etc. Interestingly, they found no difference in click-throughs across content categories. Further, the report notes an analysis in which the researchers study the effects of four emotions (anger, fear, joy, and sadness) and their role in news consumption. Words like sadness increase click-through rates, while words about fear decrease them.
A statistically significant and positive coefficient for sadness increases the probability of a user clicking the headline by 0.7%
A statistically significant negative effect for joy and fear decreases the probability of a user clicking on a headline by 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.
No statistical coefficient estimates for anger.
Again, it’s important to understand the emotional response to these words today compared to the original testing.
The study’s research integrity is not in question here. This research offers insight into how the presence of certain words links to behavior from 2013 to 2015. However, digital media, news delivery and consumption platforms, and the internet itself constantly evolve. Therefore, while the study provides interesting insights on language choices in headlines, it might not hold true today. Updated research is essential to understand if the emotional effects on readership remain the same.
The young are restless when it comes to their news habits and preferences. Under-30 audiences prefer broad content and lighter tone. They are less likely to be loyal to news brands and more likely to consume news from a variety of media formats and platforms. While myriad preferences can be challenging for news purveyors, they also create new opportunities in the form of side-doors.
These observations stem from The Kaleidoscope report on research performed with 72 people aged 18–30 in Brazil, the UK, and the U.S. by market research agency Craft for Reuters Institute. This qualitative research adds specificity and texture to the wider statistical research leased earlier this year in Reuters’ 2022 Digital News Report.
News versus “the news”
Young people make a distinction between what they consider “news” – which includes a variety of lighter topics such as sports, arts, culture, and celebrity gossip covered by a variety of platforms and brands – from what they consider “the news,” which is comprised of weightier topics such as international affairs and “need to know” information more likely to be covered by mainstream media.
Emerging from The Kaleidoscope data are three types of news consumers among those aged 30 and under:
Hobbyist/dutiful users seek news for entertainment or out of a sense of duty to stay informed and contribute to civic conversation. They appreciate more frequent updates on news stories, engage on a deeper level, and seek news from a broader variety of brands.
Main eventers tune in for practical “need to know” stories and developments that impact their daily lives. They use a combination of mainstream and newer brands.
Disengaged people typically avoid ‘the news’ but are sometimes motivated by FOMO (fear of missing out) and the need to be aware of big stories that might come up in conversation or impact their lives. These users are often late to a story and seek quick summaries and explanations to catch up. They are more likely to turn to mainstream brands or use popular search engines.
Skepticism and news avoidance
A lack of trust in the motives behind news stories was cited by many of the 30-and-under participants in The Kaleidoscope study. They expressed weariness with depressing topics such as the pandemic and political polarization, and topics that seem to drag on without resolution. The following were often cited as reasons for avoiding the news:
It’s upsetting. Younger audiences report an interest in more mood-elevating and entertaining content.
It’s repetitive. Many under 30 report tiring of repetitious coverage of major topics, citing a preference for more variety of news stories, with a broader definition of news, including “softer” news topics such as culture and the arts, education, sports, and celebrity coverage.
They don’t trust it. The skeptical comments of young people in the qualitative study aligned with statistical findings of Reuter’s 2022 Digital News Report, which found that only about a third (37%) of people under 35 say they trust most news most of the time, compared with nearly half of those 55 and older (47%).
What DO younger audiences want from news?
More variety in media formats
More diverse voices and opinions
News tailored to their personal interests
More “softer” stories to balance the serious ones
Formats that enable participation through commenting and sharing
Study participants cited content tailored to personal interests as a prime reason for preferring social media to television news. However, they were also aware of how the filter bubbles and algorithms of social media feeds were likely to support bias.
Text and traditional media still matter
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began during the study period, enabling researchers to examine how participants reacted to a major developing news story. Participants responded to the magnitude of this event with greater attention to mainstream media, live and on-the-ground coverage.
Although younger audiences often engage with multimedia and video content, most still report a preference for reading news rather than watching it. Some cited the privacy factor of reading in public and described reading news as more “professional” and “serious” than watching video or television.
These findings again align with Reuters’ 2022 Digital News Report, which found that while under-35’s have a strong inclination towards video content, 58% claim to prefer to mostly read news. Only 15% reported a preference for watching news, especially when seeking live updates and summaries on a need-to-know basis.
Authors of The Kaleidoscope report suggest using content more in tune with contemporary internet culture. This might include:
Use of emergent platforms, and an understanding of codes and conventions therein.
Recruiting talent knowledgeable in the content and vibe of emergent platforms.
Creating new brands or sub-brands to engage younger audiences, while retaining the credibility of mainstream brands.
While variety in media and content is paramount to under-30 audiences, younger people still rely on traditional sources when they think it matters most. Therefore, maintaining mainstream options while developing novel offerings may be the best approach.
As in many countries, TV and video viewership in the UK registered a surge during Covid. However, as consumers re-emerged from lockdowns, TV viewing time declined. Ofcom’s fifth annual Media Nations UK 2022 Report offers insight into viewership patterns in the UK and the audience shift to on-demand platforms.
On-demand takes time viewed
Total viewing time for TV and video in 2021 was 5 hours and 16 minutes per person per day, a decline of 25 minutes in 2020 but up from 2019.
Time spent on broadcasters, across live TV, recordings, and on-demand, declined by 9% compared to 2020 and 4% in 2019. As a result, broadcasters’ share of viewing continues to fall from 67% in 2019, to 61% in 2020, to 59% in 2021. Interestingly, broadcast video-on-demand (BVOD) increased by an average of three minutes per person per day compared to 2020, growing its viewership share from 6% to 8% in 2021.
Time viewing SVOD, at 58 minutes per day per person, declined by 6% from 2020. However, SVOD maintained its share of viewing, from 19% in 2020 to 18% in 2021.
SVOD market matures
Subscriptions to SVOD services (at least one service) declined slightly in the UK from 68% to 67%, or19.2 million households, compared to Q1 2022.
However, Ofcom’s analysis confirms a high concentration of multiple SVOD services among UK households. Nearly half of all UK households (46%), which is approximately 13.2 million, access two or more services in Q1 2022. Furthermore, of these households, 5.2 million—or about one in five homes—subscribe to the three most popular services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+.
Netflix remains the largest SVOD provider in the UK, with 17.1 million households (60%) subscribing. It’s followed by Amazon Prime Video (46%) and Disney+ (23%).
Maintaining subscribers is crucial in a competitive SVOD market. According to Ofcom’s report, 2% of Netflix users, 4% of Amazon Prime Video users, and Disney+ users canceled their subscriptions in the past three months. Ofcom’s Public Service Media (PSM) tracker identified cost as the top reason for cancellation.
In addition to time spent, the Ofcom report provides details on viewer satisfaction and offers insight into audience engagement. Eighty-six percent of consumers who used Netflix in the past six months said they were satisfied with the service, while 81% said the same about Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, respectively.
Top Netflix attribute scores:
Provides services that are easy to find my way around (82%);
easy to find something I want to watch (80%);
Appeals to a wide range of different audiences (82%); and
has programs that are relevant to me (75%).
Top Disney+ attribute scores:
Easy to find my way around (78%);
easy to find something I want to watch (74%); and
appeals to a wide range of different audiences (73%).
SVOD market growth
Overall, the SVOD market performed strongly in 2021. It generated approximately $3.2 billion (or about £2.7 billion), an increase of 27% compared to last year. The top three services—Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+—accounted for 89% of the market share.
Ofcom’s analysis highlights the evolving TV and video landscape and the divide between younger and older viewers. Almost nine in ten adults, 18-24, go straight to streaming, on-demand, and social video services when looking for something to watch. In contrast, 59% of adults aged 55-64, and 76% of adults who are 65+, turn to TV channels first.
The report also suggests that streaming services with hybrid business models may become more common among SVOD offerings. Introducing ad-supported tiers (e.g., Netflix and Disney+) subscription opportunities to hard-to-convert viewers may move the dial for new subscribers. As the on-demand market evolves, media companies must consider multiple access points, platforms, and price points to acquire new subscribers to grow their audience share.
As much as your media organization values its audience, you might find their online behavior wildly unpredictable.
Whether your readers are active on your website only to become randomly inactive or subscribe and unsubscribe at a moment’s notice, it’s essential that you get to the bottom of your audience’s expectations, needs and actions. After all, there’s an abundance of other online services and media organizations competing for your audience’s attention.
“[For] local media companies to survive and thrive into the future, they must deliver beyond what they traditionally have offered,” John Newby, a business strategist, shares withEditor & Publisher.“[They] must understand their most significant threat — that of their reader’s limited time.”
To consistently earn your readers’ time and loyalty, you’ll have to successfully predict what kinds of digital experiences will captivate them. And while this may seem like an impossible task, there are actually a few easy ways your organization can predict and respond to audience behaviors:
Pay attention to audience engagement signals
Every action — or inaction — your audience members make on your brand’s website or app is crucial information that can help you foresee their next actions before they ever make them.
For example, actions as simple as liking a content topic or interacting with other commenters can indicate that your users are highly engaged and ready to subscribe. On the other hand, declining interactions can also reveal that a user is about to unsubscribe or stop visiting your website altogether.
All of this information can be collected as first-party data through your digital engagement tools. They can then be fed into a user re-engagement or subscription strategy to target readers with paywall messages, subscription discounts and content promotions as needed.
“When we look at data as tools to predict [behavior] we have the opportunity to intercept an undesired action, or multiply the effect and impulse actions aligned with our goals,” Stephanie Lievano, a subscriptions expert, tells the International News Media Association.
The attention span of humans is also dropping worldwide. A Microsoft study reports that the average person’s attention span has fallen from 12 to eight seconds.
This means that it’s important to watch out for drops in user attention, visit frequency and engagement actions. If and when alarming engagement signals do come up, taking data-driven steps to keep audience members hooked on your digital properties can prevent them from losing interest in your brand.
Identify behavior patterns from groups of people with similar interests
From solidifying strong relationships with readers to growing registrations and loyalty, success in the media industry often starts with data. By going beyond third-party data in particular, your company can draw consented information around the thoughts, likes and dislikes of its registered users. You can then look to this information for actionable insights into the behaviors and interests of your organization’s unknown audience.
More specifically, when a group of known audience members follow a particular pattern of likes and interests, your organization can form a lookalike audience made up of anonymous users with similar characteristics. You can then target this lookalike audience with relevant ads, content, and registration prompts based on the insights drawn from your known audience.
Ultimately, the more you learn about your registered users, the better you can match their behaviors to unknown audience members so you can appeal to their interests and habits.
However, an average of 99.6% of unsubscribed audiences are anonymous on publisher properties online. Therefore, forming groups of anonymous users that mirror known audiences can improve your company’s overall business results.
Moderate evolving language to keep audiences protected
For this reason, your media company must do everything in its power to keep toxicity off of its digital properties. And that means stopping people from posting offensive comments before they can ever hit that publish button.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Betty Birner, a professional linguist, explains that “language is always changing, evolving and adapting to the needs of its users.” So how can publishers moderate toxic comments on their pages confidently when users are constantly developing new words and phrases?
Media organizations can stay ahead of trolls by taking on a moderation system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that learns as language evolves. That way, companies can stop toxic language from offending users and damaging the reputation of their brands.
Viafoura data highlights that good-quality, troll-free conversation increases audience engagement, leading to 35% more comments and 62% more likes per user.
The bottom line is that an effective moderation system can give you greater insight into how to keep your community healthy and active before destructive, trolling behavior can take root.
Why foresight is critical to the media industry
If your business strategies are only focused on responding to past audience behaviors, it may be too late to captivate your users or prevent churn. To keep your audience happy, hooked on your content and loyal, you’ll need to accurately predict their future behaviors before they ever come to fruition.
That said, staying ahead of your audience’s changing habits and interests will give your company the opportunity to serve readers better — and forge stronger, lasting relationships with them.
Publishers should target the medium, not the platform to capture the next generation of news consumers.
The 2022 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford paints a grim picture. More people are avoiding the news than ever before, especially younger generations. But these social and digital natives are not necessarily next up in the queue of eventual news consumers nor are they a target audience, yet. This article aims to highlight who publishers should target and how.
Targeting too young, too soon.
It’s easy to read the aforementioned report and feel exasperated. Thirty eight percent of people surveyed around the world are selectively avoiding the news, up from 29% in 2017. In the U.S., it’s 42%, up from 38% in 2017.
The percentage of avoiders grows the younger the dataset gets with 20-somethings actively avoiding certain genres of news as a form of self-care.
“I actively avoid things that trigger my anxiety and things that can have a negative impact on my day. I will try to avoid reading news about things like deaths and disasters.”
—Male, 27, UK
This is distressing for any journalist to read. However, there’s an interesting yet subtle distinction in how younger consumers are classifying news which helps explain it.
“…younger audiences often distinguish between ‘the news’ as the narrow, traditional agenda of politics and current affairs and ‘news’ as a much wider umbrella encompassing topics like sports, entertainment, celebrity gossip, culture, and science.”
This means that younger generations are lumping proper journalism in with their entire digital diet. This makes sense based on how different types of information bleed together on social feeds. A video from the New York Times on the war in Ukraine might be sandwiched between a video from an influencer doing the latest viral dance trend and a video showing how to make burrata caprese. If you’re on your phone for another dopamine hit, “the news” isn’t going to satiate.
So called “older generations” (35 is the cutoff in the report) are much more interested in “the news” as opposed to “news”. They seek out the news because they feel it’s important, useful and a good way to learn new things as opposed to younger generations looking for entertainment or something to discuss with friends.
This sense of duty to be informed is the perfect audience subset for publishers and that passionate niche only grows larger with age. Some publishers are setting the bar even higher than 35. The Washington Post’s Phoebe Connelly, director of Next Generation Audiences told Poynter’s Senior Media Writer Tom Jones that younger audiences are anyone under 45. That’s just ten years younger than the average news consumer.
The Reuters report shows that younger audiences are less engaged and are even having a difficult time understanding the news. I should be clear that these audiences shouldn’t be ignored. It’s worth exploring how to increase media literacy and develop a sense of duty to be well informed. But newsrooms need to be strategic with their limited audience targeting resources, so whether it’s due to self-care or just wanting to be entertained, publishers should mostly put the millennial and Gen-Z generations on the shelf while they mature into vintage news consumers and focus on the tier below their current audience.
45 is the new 55
Most consumers are getting their news from social media on mobile devices, even this older demographic. But there are key opportunities in this subset for publishers compared to the younger audiences.
They are about 13% of the U.S. population (37 million and the third largest set)
They are twice as likely to have a digital subscription to news than 35-45 year olds. (8% or 3 million)
About 25% either mostly watch or have a balance of watching and reading the news. (9.2 million)
This last bullet point is key because it highlights a consumption trend that can result in huge engagement and revenue growth for publishers.
While only about 25% of older consumers mostly watch or consume the same amount of content via video or text, the younger generations are consuming nearly 35% via video. Our research at Oovvuu finds this to be true across its publishing partners as well. A global average of 34% of news consumers prefer video while on a publisher’s website, not just social media.
This trend isn’t going to change. TikTok is a video-only platform and it’s the most popular social media platform in the world with the youngest users. TikTok will come and go, but those users have been conditioned to consume video from the days of Facebook and Twitter to Instagram, YouTube and now TikTok. When they grow up and fit nicely into the 45 to 55 news-hungry demographic, odds are they’ll still want video.
Engagement and revenue opportunities
Already, 41% of consumers who prefer video say it is more engaging than text. When publishers embed contextually relevant video on a news story the time spent on that page doubles. It also increases the likelihood of that viewer returning to the site.
This strategy isn’t new. It’s usually mentioned every few years when a publisher “pivots to video” for the umpteenth time. The problem lies in the execution of that strategy. The road to proper video implementation is riddled with landmines: auto-play, long non-skippable pre rolls, too many ads, loading too many videos and weighing down the page, and a lack of contextual relevance are all recipes for disaster with news video consumption. One landmine can turn off a consumer or an advertiser. They’ll still want or pay for video, it just won’t happen on your site.
The winning formula is the right video, at the right time, in the right place.
This formula works because video is 34 times more profitable than display advertising when implemented correctly. At Oovvuu, we’ve found that publishers who are willing to follow the formula are rewarded with media agency partners who are willing to pay premium CPMs for those videos and consumers who actually engage with the content. Here’s the formula again with more detail.
The reality is that journalists still need to do the work, and publishers can empower them with this strategy because it translates across all levels of the organization. Contextually relevant video journalism making more money for the publisher means newsrooms could do something they haven’t done in a long time…grow.
Contextual relevance applies to video, but also the consumer
There is one more potential pitfall to this strategy worth mentioning. A digital publisher or broadcaster can have a 1:1 perfect match between an in-house video and an article, but over time the publisher will still see a lack of loyalty from its consumers. But why if the video and article are in perfect harmony?
Social and digital native audiences are more casual, less loyal, less trusting and more skeptical in their news consumption. Loyalty and trust are built through representation and diversity. A publisher who relies on one brand or one internal group of talent – no matter how good – is likely turning off younger consumers.
Publishers can’t hire every demographic. They also can’t source every video. This means that publishers and video providers need to work together to have the best audience representation possible. Publishers who have video from hundreds of providers around the world are able to publish a larger variety of reporting perspectives and viewpoints with more races, accents and dialects offered from news presenters.
Contextual relevance through diverse video sources will leave audiences feeling represented, empowered, and part of the news. Couple that with a proper video strategy and consumers will be more likely to engage with “the news” and less likely to disassociate with it.
Mental shortcuts, snap judgments, gut feelings: everyone uses these to some degree while navigating an increasingly overwhelming news landscape. However, new research finds that these instant reactions are even more prevalent among the 25% of the population with the lowest trust in news. Low trust audiences are more likely to receive the bulk of their news incidentally while engaged in other online activities such as socializing, shopping, or searching for specific information pertinent to their daily lives. Significantly, low trust aligns with low interest. These individuals are unlikely to visit news sites on purpose. They are also the least-studied segment of the population when it comes to news-related behavior.
It is important that content providers understand the impact of snap judgments because they occur upstream of further engagement with news material. Research from the Trust in News Project out of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford offers insights based upon an exploration of the behaviors and habits of this audience segment.
News, cues, and clues
The report, Snap judgements: how audiences who lack trust in news navigate information on digital platforms was based upon a qualitative study that involved participants from four countries: Brazil, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. One hundred individuals were interviewed in depth via videoconference as they used one of three platforms: Google, Facebook, or WhatsApp, between December 2021 and January 2022.
Six types of cues were found to serve as as shortcuts for evaluating news:
Pre-existing ideas about news in general or particular news media brands, including reputation and perceived reliability of the news outlet.
Social endorsement cues, especially from friends and family.
Tone and word choice of headlines, with a skepticism for headlines that seem sensationalized.
Visual cues, with a preference for photographs and videos perceived as recent and relevant, as well as numerical data and links to other sources.
Presence of advertising or indications of sponsored content are often seen as indicative of bias and profit-driven motives.
Platform-specific cues such as Facebook likes and Google search engine rankings. (insert cues graphic)
Comfort and control
The study found low-trust individuals have much more favorable opinions of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp than they do of professional news sources. They consider these platforms valuable tools used in everyday life, whereas many stated most news is irrelevant to them. In fact, some perceive news as an attempt to manipulate them; many stated that politicians control major news sources. In “shoot the messenger” fashion, low-trust users tend to conflate content they dislike or find upsetting with news journalists or brands.
News reports on hot topics such as politics and issues that have become politically charged such as the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic are viewed with particular skepticism by the sample group. Participants indicated that content providers have more incentive to be untruthful about such topics.
Low-trust users are more likely to look favorably upon information presented in a manner perceived as enabling them to make up their own minds. Some participants cited the presence of numerical data or links to other sources as indications that news was reliable, while others praised Google search results as such a resource.
Addressing the audience gap
While some of the 25% have overtly hostile feelings towards news organizations, indifference is more to blame for lack of engagement. Lack of knowledge in how journalism works is also a factor. Those aware of their limited knowledge may be less confident in their ability to decipher content and more likely to ignore it altogether or rely on opinions of trusted social contacts.
Trust-building strategies employed by digital news organizations tend to focus on the behavior and practices of the savviest news consumers. This makes sense if the goal is to solidify one’s base. However, expanding outreach requires more understanding of the less-engaged 25%. Building relationships with new user groups requires deeper understanding of how they engage with their platforms of choice.
This research is significant for digital media providers because it represents data from the least-studied segment of the population, and because the findings are not limited to this group. While some of the cues relied on by these users are under exclusive control of digital platforms, others can be utilized by news providers. The study has compelling implications for how information can best be conveyed to those hardest to reach.
The Covid-19 pandemic drove a surge in digital media usage. However, as consumers slowly return to work and to everyday life outside the home, digital media consumption been impacted. New research from GWI, Connecting the Dots, finds that the gradual shift to our pre-pandemic habits has downshifted digital consumption.
However, GWI sees the present as an interim period. For now, it remains unclear whether consumers will return to their previous content consumption levels — or perhaps reach new heights. This report offers an early look at consumer’s media behavior and attitudes as they slowly resume post-pandemic life.
Consumer attention serves as a commodity in today’s media marketplace. The attention metric took on new importance during the pandemic. Marketers and advertisers seek digital properties that offer large viewer and reader data that exhibit high levels of time spent. However, the attention economy concept as currency is only part of the advertising equation. GWI believes understanding consumer attitudes and feelings is a necessary part of the calculation and offers insight into their behavior.
Multiple streaming services add up
Television consumption increased during the pandemic and so did consumer spending on subscription services. Though GWI’s research finds that some consumers think they spent too much money. Over one-third (34%) of consumers state that TV services are too expensive in Q2 2021 compared to 27% in Q2 2020, an increase of 26%. In addition, in May 2021, a quarter of consumers were thinking of canceling or already canceling a streaming service.
Gaming grabs consumer attention
The pandemic ignited a period of exceptional growth for gaming. GWI cites a Google Trends’ analysis that compares the popularity of video gaming to a TV program, a theatrical release, and a new album release. The analysis tracks the popularity of Animal Crossing, a social simulation video game series, Tiger King, a popular Netflix program, Tenet, a new movie release, and Folklore, Taylor Swift’s album release — from January 5, 2020 to September 27, 2020. Tiger King, Tenet, and Folklore each had short-lived peaks, while the popularity of Animal Crossings, after an initial peak, maintains relatively steady interest.
Gaming is a strong contender for consumer attention, especially among Generation Z. According to GWI’s survey in Q2 2021, more than half (54%) of Zers are interested in gaming compared to 42% in Q2 2020. In contrast, Gen Z’s interest in television declined from 44% in Q2 2020 to 42% in Q2 2021.
Audio is screen-free
GWI’s report also shows audio entertainment, including streaming music and podcasts, is an integral part of consumers’ lives, especially when at home and during exercising. Interestingly, based on Q2 2021 data, streaming music is the only media type outperforming its Covid peaks that took place during lockdown.
GWI suggests that one of the reasons for audio’s success is that it doesn’t compete for screen time. Audio streaming offers an escape from screen fatigue. Using different screens all day may boost usage of audio media at the expense of visual media platforms.
As out-of-home activities become the norm once again, media channels need to think about re-engaging consumers. Transitioning from a pandemic mindset to a new normal is not easy for anyone. Media companies need to rethink their success and sales metrics and move beyond consumer attention. Offering quality content, positive experiences, a relatable community, opportunities of fandom, and possibilities of escapism, can present new opportunities of engagement.
Media disruption has become a fact of life in the digital age. Media disruption is a fact of life in the digital age.ons become more diverse, new channels are emerging more rapidly than most media companies can respond.
This pace places an extreme burden on media companies. They don’t want to throw money at every novel channel in our here-today, gone-tomorrow culture because they can ill afford to waste time and resources. Nor can they afford to overlook the next big trend and risk irrelevancy.
When an ad-supported model drove revenue, companies could risk complacency. With the depreciation of the cookie, there is a growing need to move fast to attract attention and leverage first-party data to drive engagement.
New channels, new strategies
Media companies and publishers have re-adjusted their revenue strategies to focus on subscriptions as per-page revenue from advertising has dropped. In a recent interview, New Yorker editor David Remnick noted that advertising sales in their print magazine largely subsidized the content in the magazine for most of its life. Now, digital and print subscriptions pay for the newest Borowitz Report.
Can a successful subscription service be enough for a media company to thrive in the years ahead? For the New Yorker and loyal reader base, the answer is likely yes. For many others, survival means embracing a truly omnichannel strategy that distributes content everywhere that content can be consumed.
The New York Times went through a tumultuous transition a decade ago as it dealt with substantial drops in print readership and revenue. Yes, they have done well with digital subscriptions. However, the Times has also developed a plethora of content products, built for the changing habits of their audience.
The Daily, a long form audio content for the passive Times’ listener, is an excellent example. It demonstrates how companies like The New York Times provide a range of content formats that meet the broad expectations of today’s audiences. Products like these also access emerging digital engagement channels, which offer new revenue streams and drive subscriptions.
New revenue: ecommerce and events
The definition of media is continually evolving. ESPN and Barstool Sports are content companies that also support new endemic opportunities such as sports-betting. Synergies like these not only create new revenue streams but drive ongoing multi-channel engagement. You don’t just read about or watch the game, you participate in the game along with your favorite content brand.
Ecommerce is also becoming a way to leverage brand recognition and build stronger relationships with consumers by supplementing information with a physical product. It may not be a surprise that HGTV sells doormats. But did you know that Barstool Sports now sells One Bite frozen pizza?
Media company events are nothing new. However, they are becoming an ever more common way to drive revenue, engagement and brand loyalty. ComplexCon, the event put on by Complex Networks, is an excellent example of meeting their Millennial and Gen Z audience how and where they want to engage. The New Yorker Festival just saw its second biggest revenue earnings ever in its new hybrid format.
True omnichannel lies ahead
What are some of the promising omnichannel opportunities going forward? As The New York Times has demonstrated, audio is proving to be quite popular. (As well as a bit of what’s old is new again). Given that audio is a fairly passive content channel, it can exist in the background without demanding focused attention from the consumer. In our multitasking culture, having the freedom to absorb ambient media while also exercising or mowing the lawn is highly valuable.
The once-taboo is now an opportunity for media companies looking to engage. As states begin to legalize online gambling and sports betting, there are opportunities to drive new branding and co-branding revenue streams, creating one of the most direct opportunities for the right media brands to surround and interact with the content. It is critical that companies keep their eye on changing trends and emerging opportunities that align with their brand and target audience.
The long game
Indeed, whatever activity a media company chooses to tap into, they must do it authentically and on-brand. The excellent podcast series on systemic racism Who We Are, created by Vox Media and Ben and Jerry’s, is an example of high-quality brand extension.
What direct revenue will these and other emerging markets create? That’s the billion dollar question. But it also misses the point. Creating a content ecosystem that authentically connects great content to your audience supports behavior that drives subscriptions and ultimately sustainable revenue. The key is being open to experimentation. And experimenting does not mean developing a TikTok strategy in 2022 to gain younger viewers.
Some (well, many) attempts will fail. However, those that succeed could become significant new revenue streams. The advent of 5G all but guarantees a turbocharged environment of innovative new channels for media companies to explore in the coming decade.
The future for media companies demands an omnichannel approach. While content is still king, customers now dictate how and where they will consume it. To win a battle fought on many fronts, media companies need to jump into the arena and embrace change. This means combining insight-driven experimentation with new emerging channels and technologies. That’s the kind of customer-centricity that will ensure content drives new revenue opportunities.
Make it short. Show real stuff. This may seem obvious, but these are best practices in video length and content authenticity for Gen Z audiences.
Gen Z, born between 1998 and 2016, spends a lot of time watching videos on social media. And last year, Gen Z’s video consumption increased: Snapchat reported that Gen Z watched over an hour each day of video content on social media apps alone. They value video more than any other media platform, by a margin of roughly 2-to-1 over social, gaming, music or Google search, according to a recent study by DCN. They prefer video, specifically user-generated content, due to its relatability and personability.
Understanding that Gen Z viewers and consumers have different behaviors, values, and attitudes when it comes to video is important because it can impact your audience of the future, your strategy, and your revenue. It will also help you withstand shifts in viewer tastes and larger shifts in the media landscape. Building relationships with this generation of viewers, readers, consumers, starts now.
Video length on TikTok
Video length varies by platform, and there are a lot of platforms to choose from. Gen Z favors Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, according to a Pew survey in 2021.
Video content on TikTok must be extremely short. In fact, 50 seconds is long, according to Erin Weaver, Group Nine Media’s Senior Director of Audience Development. For Gen Z-favored platforms Snapchat and TikTok, video length needs to be short and videos need to be fast-paced, according to Weaver. “On TikTok, I consider anything between 30 and 60 seconds to be almost the default. And then slightly longer is over one minute up to three minutes. We’ve seen some success with longer videos, as long as they’re really engaging and interesting.”
Brittiany Cierra Taylor, director of audience development at BET, says she sees similar results. “Our audience development team has been trying out shorts and they’ve seen that they were amazing in getting new views, new viewers and from an ad perspective, we see more ads, more earned views. That shortness really is the key because we noticed that the sweet spot on TikTok is seven seconds where you see that jump that engagement,” she said.
“Our TikTok partners always encourage us to create shorter and more succinct videos, as they do tend to perform well on the platform,” says Kelsey Alpaio, an editor and producer with Harvard Business Review’s Ascend brand for young professionals, “But, that doesn’t mean long videos are off limits. The majority of our top-viewed videos are more than 50 seconds long. If people are interested in the content, they will stick around.”
Video length on YouTube
On YouTube, videos that are 2-4 minutes long work well for Harvard Business Review, but they also see success with videos that are longer, about 10-14 minutes each.
Scott LaPierre, Harvard Business Review’s senior editor for multimedia, says that for YouTube, trends around length are similar. Length is less important than topic and storytelling. LaPierre says HBR’s more authentic and honest videos on YouTube, which are casual, host- and personality-driven, perform about as well in the long run as their more traditional content. “Both have about an even number of breakout successes, and comparable average performers,” he says. “The video’s topic, and how compellingly it delivers on that topic are still the primary factors in the number of views and how long people watch, whether traditional or authentic in style.”
Short and medium-length videos at about two to nine minutes each work best on YouTube, for a broad reach. And longer (10-15 minutes) seems to work to deepen engagement with established fans, LaPierre said. “Shorter videos seem to have broader reach while longer videos seem to have deeper engagement. Long for us is around 10-15 minutes. Short is two to four. Most of our current video lineup is in the middle: six-to-nine-minute range. Anything over about 15 minutes does not perform great on our channel.” (Live video is a different conversation where lengths over 15 are more the norm.)
Optimize for story
“It really depends on the goal of the story and whatever length makes the storytelling complete,” says Zainab Khan, associate director of audience, video at The New York Times. “We might do a months-long investigation that merits a 12-minute video. What we see, because we edit our videos for pacing and storytelling, if a video is longer, we get more overall watch time. But we’re really rigorous about thinking about length so it fits the needs of the story. And in some cases, that means the best way to share a story means to do a quick 30-second snippet, showing viewers what’s happening on the ground.”
All of the digital content companies we spoke to said that storytelling trumps minutes and seconds. Video content should be as long as it needs to be, to tell an engaging story. LaPierre says, “Topic and storytelling generally trump length or style. So, my rule of thumb is: make it as short as possible, but no shorter.”
Best practices for user-generated content are that video content must be low lit, not super polished, and not have a high production quality.Often, it is a selfie-style cell phone footage. It’s casual, host- and personality-driven. It is concise, engaging, and easy to produce. It shows people talking about what they care passionately about.
Harvard Business Review aims to make some of their videos in that user-generated style, LaPierre says. “For me, the best way to get authentic-feeling video is to have people talk about what they care passionately about,” he says.
Ascend Multimedia Producer Andy Robinson explains they try to find a sweet spot between having a polished feel and showing the real world. “My rule is, show the real stuff whenever possible. We’ve been leaning heavily on less-overly produced elements in our video content. Audiences can smell something that is highly produced, over scripted, over thought.”
Group Nine makes a point of putting people as the focal point of their UGC content, explains Weaver. “For PopSugar, a tutorial on applying makeup does a lot better than a product review or something that’s mostly focused on beauty products or a workout. You should see people doing the workouts, not so much like a description of the movements.”
At The New York Times, best practice for finding authenticity in a creator’s work is to have a deep understanding of the company’s values and to find common ground with their audience, Khan says. “It’s really important for us, when we want to build trust with our audience, we show our authentic selves. We literally put our reporters on screen in a way that helps the audience understand who is doing the reporting,” Khan says.
Gen Z has a bullshit detector
Gen Z’s desire for authenticity has been well documented. They want brands to be transparent, authentic and trustworthy. Gen Z audiences have spent their lives surrounded by digital technology. They’re incredibly discerning and know how to filter content that lacks the right tone, language, relevance or value. “What I love about Gen Z is that they hold companies more accountable,” Taylor says. “They’re doing the fact-checking, they’re doing the homework, they’re seeing if your staff resembles the world, if your content resembles the world year round. Is your message consistent and congruent in the content that you showed me? That’s actually one thing I love about them because it forces brands to be authentic.”
Authenticity is the way to grow audiences, Taylor explains. “I think that if you want to stay around, that is the basic component that audiences are resonating with. So, if you’re not going to be authentic, you’re not going to meet the KPIs you want, you’re not going to grow your audience, you’re not going to hit your revenue… So, from an audience perspective, a revenue perspective, authenticity is just the way to move forward.”
Be real, not trendy
“In the long term, if your identity and authenticity are dependent on a trend, you only last as long as that trend,” Khan says. “On the other hand, if your company has a handle on its core values, and what sets you apart from your peers and competitors, you can choose which trends to follow. And it means you can withstand shifts in the media and shifts in viewer taste.”
LaPierre says content authenticity connotes honesty, vulnerability, transparency, and relatability, which may not always have been top priorities for publishers. “And, we’ve seen some of the distrust in media that can result,” he says. “Show your flaws, show that your content is made by real people with real concerns that overlap with your audience’s, and show your work–it’s about building a trusting relationship over time.”
For their audience of the future, digital content companies need to put real intention behind the content they create and innovate constantly. As one expert put it, you need to think about who you’re talking to, and create content that is meaningful to them. It’s a lot of effort trying to please Gen Z, but if you’re not putting in the effort, you’re not going to get the results. This is your future audience, after all.
The pandemic was a key driver of new subscriptions from news and gaming sites to entertainment streaming services. As a result, publishers registered record subscription growth. For digital media businesses, once 100% reliant on advertising revenue, the question now is how to sustain this growth over time.
Publishers naturally encourage heavy readers to convert to paying subscribers. These readers offer a high lifetime value and are an excellent market for new products, upgrades, and cross-sells. However, heavy users were not the only segment showing an increase in subscriptions during the pandemic. Casual readers also increased their subscriptions sign-ups.
Greg Piechota highlights strategies to convert and retain light readers after the pandemic in the International News Media Alliance (INMA) new report, Light Readers: Digital Subscriptions’ Next Growth Path. Publishers should think differently about light readers and develop a value proposition and marketing mix that fits this target audience.
Open a door for casual readers
Publishers grew their subscriber base last year. High-interest news events such as Black Lives Matter and the U.S. presidential elections, in addition to the pandemic, signaled light readers to learn more. As a result, casual news consumers were part of the wave of increased traffic to news sites.
Recognizing the historical events of 2020, many publishers responded with looser paywalls during Covid. They recognized the value of trading content for reader registrations. Once readers registered, it allowed publishers to track and understand their content preferences. It opened a valuable communication channel to push content to causal readers via e-mail, paid ads, etc. — hopefully leading to new subscriptions.
The standard acquisition funnel may not be the right path for casual readers; they may need more passes in the first stages of the relationship to trigger registration, engagement, and subscription.
Insert chart optimize customer journey
Developing a new habit
Onboarding new subscribers need to be centered around developing a new habit of regularly visiting publisher’s content. Piechota cites research from University College (UCL) that suggests “people are most likely to adopt new habits after 66 days of repetition.” In other words, publishers have approximately two months to engage light readers daily to become a regular habit.
Developing a new behavior is a critical step in creating a long-term subscriptions relationship with light readers. Further, trial lengths should include sufficient time to adopt this new habit-forming behavior.
Learn about the light reader
Publishers must focus on engaging light readers in both content and site design. Segment personalization in many content management systems (CMS) can offer different homepages to different reader segments. A homepage design for casual readers can include explanation sections, added news analyses, and 24-hour recaps.
Light readers, by definition, are more limited in what they read on sites than heavy users. Heavy readers often look at everything. Therefore, it’s more challenging to figure out what is truly interesting to them. Given the disparity between these two cohorts, it may be beneficial to focus on the overlap of their content interests. Finding this intersection can serve light users well while maximizing the reach of content.
Further, increasing engagement of light readers can be more critical than maximizing heavy-reader engagement. Piechota points out increasing heavy readers from 50 visits per month to 60 may not affect their engagement. However, moving a light reader from two visits a month to 10 is likely to affect their engagement significantly.
News publishers see casual readers as a valuable audience. A renewed focus on this cohort, understanding their behavior and knowing their unique characteristics offer an opportunity for growth and a gateway to engagement.
Understanding Gen Z’s media experiences and entertainment preferences is a priority for publishers because they provide a proxy for the future of digital media. Already, according to a McKinsey analysis, Gen Z accounts for 40% of global consumers while a Barkley US report estimated that they hold $143 billion in spending power.
To gain insight into this generation, Digital Content Next (DCN) commissioned Seidmon Associates to research Gen Z’s attitudes, values, and behavior regarding digital content. Through a 20-minute online survey, they queried 1,556 respondents aged 16-40 between May 14 and June 5, 2021. Approximately half (792) of respondents fell into the Gen Z demographic, ages 16-24, and the remainder (764) into Gen Y, ages 25-40. DCN’s goal in conducting this research is to help their members better understand the way that Gen Z experiences content to build audience reach and engagement. Note that the research included a Gen Y sample to offer a contrasting perspective and a better understanding of Gen Z.
Attributes and access
High quality is the most important attribute that influences digital media brand loyalty among both generations. Trust is the next most significant attribute among Gen Z and Gen Y. And privacy and authenticity also matter a great deal to both generations.
For both Gen Z and Gen Y, mobile rules – with nearly half of both generations saying their phone is valued above all else. DCN’s research found that Gen Z values video more than any other media platform – by a margin of roughly 2-to-1 over social, gaming, music, or Google search. Both generations have more paid subscriptions for video than any other content type (a little over three each).
In terms of devices and hardware, the mobile phone is clearly most valued, followed by gaming consoles and devices. However, videogame consoles are second in importance among Gen Z, while laptops are second among Gen Y.
Video and attention
There’s a significant intersection here, as video is highly accessible at all times, given these consumers’ tendency to view it on mobile. Both generations see video as part of their social fabric and say that it is part of their daily conversation. According to DCN’s Vice President of Research, Rande Price, “That means that major marketing campaigns aren’t lost on them. Big announcements like of Marvel series drops on Disney+, the reintroduction of chess due to Queens Gambit on Netflix, etc. – these are all part of their social conversation.”
The research finds that, in general, both generations prefer shorter-form content. Gen Z attributes this to their “short attention span” while Gen Y value short form as a time filler. YouTube, Instagram and TikTok are most popular with Gen Z, while Gen Y prefers YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram (in that order). Both Gen Z and Gen Y prefer user-generated over company-produced digital media content by a 2-to-1 margin. In particular, Gen Z respondents felt that user-generated content was “more authentic, honest, and relatable” than professionally produced content.
As the report concludes, Gen Z are digital natives, born into a world with it all – social media, instant messaging, video games, live streaming, traditional TV and movies. Therefore, “understanding Gen Z’s media experiences and entertainment preferences is a priority for publishers because they are the future.”
The full report also covers a wide range of topics including Gen Z’s rational around paying for subscriptions, attitudes and preferences on news, ethical and social considerations, and more. DCN members can access the full report here.