Surprising statistic? One-third of American adults still aren’t on social media.

social mediaFor the many people who use social media on a daily basis, it may seem inconceivable that there are a substantial number of other Americans who aren’t on social media at all.

But that’s the case. The Pew Research Center has been tracking social media usage on an annual basis over the past decade or so, and it finds that about one-third of Americans still aren’t using any social networking sites.

To be sure, today’s ~65% participation rate is about ten times higher than the paltry ~7% participation rate Pew found the first time it surveyed Americans about their social media usage back in 2005.

According to Pew’s field research findings, here’s how the percentage of social media involvement has risen in selected years in the decade since. (The figures measure the percentage of Americans age 18 or over who use at least one social networking site.)

  • 2006: ~11% using at least one social networking site
  • 2008: ~25%
  • 2010: ~46%
  • 2012: ~55%
  • 2015: ~65%

In more recent years, the highest growth in social media participation rates has been among older Americans (over the age of 65), ~35% of whom are using social media today compared to just 11% five years ago.

That still pales in comparison to younger Americans (age 18-29), ~90% of whom use social media platforms.

While it’s a common perception that women are more avid users of social media than men, Pew’s research shows that the participation rate is actually not that far apart. Statistically it isn’t significant, in fact: a ~68% social media participation rate for women versus ~62% for men.

pew-research-centerSimilarly, there are more similarities than differences among the various racial and ethnic groups that Pew surveys — and the same dynamics are at work when it comes to differing education levels, too.

Regional differences in social media practice continue to persist, however, with rural residents less likely to use social media than suburban residents by a ten-point margin (58% versus 68%). City dwellers fall in between.

More details on Pew’s most recent field research on the topic of social media participation can be accessed here. See if you notice any surprising findings among them.

Six years on … and the U.S. ad economy is still in recession?

recession recoveryTwo reports from advertising research sources released in the past month reveal that the advertising field doesn’t appear to be rebounding in strongly – at least not to same degree as the economy as a whole.

One report, from U.S. Ad Market Tracker, is an index that pools electronic media buys processed by major agency holding companies and their brand marketers.

It’s true that this report shows an increase in the overall ad activity index year-over-year of about 18 points (it’s 184 today … 166 a year ago … and 100 back in the recession year of 2009).

But when we look at the breakdown where most of the advertising growth is coming from, it’s nearly all from a handful of categories: social media advertising, advertising on video, Internet radio, plus ad network marketplaces.

By contrast, search advertising is growing at a much slower rate, and the most “commoditized” segments – particularly online display advertising – are doing little better than treading water.

This isn’t the robust rebound that many business and ad industry observers were expecting to see by 2015.

advertisingOver at Kantar Media, the statistics are even less encouraging.

In fact, Kantar projects that the 2015 ad economy will underperform U.S. economic growth for the fifth straight year.

Considering how lethargic in general the U.S. economy has been over that period, to be growing at less than the average is almost an indictment of the industry.

That’s what Kantar Media Chief Research Officer Jon Swallen suggests:  a “streak that might have once seemed unimaginable, but now would seem par for the course.”

Second-quarter 2015 data released by Kantar estimates annualized measured media ad spending declines in the neighborhood of 4%.

More to the point, Kantar is seeing increases in just 7 of the 22 individual ad media categories it tracks, led by the same categories U.S. Ad Market Tracker identifies as the most healthy ones.

Perhaps a surprise — considering the overall disappointing numbers — is that Kantar has tracked two analogue categories as experiencing growth:  radio and out-of-home advertising.

But print continues to decline at pronounced rates, and Internet display advertising has also officially joined the ranks of media segments that are contracting.

Is the disappointing performance of advertising a function of a weak market overall?  Or is it the result of structural changes and the reallocation of promo dollars into different, in some cases non-advertising MarComm vehicles?

I’m not completely sure.  It’s true that certain advertising categories that are “newer” ones are attracting more attention (and more dollars).  But Kantar’s 2nd Quarter reporting of advertising expenditures by major industry category finds just one – one – segment that has experienced an overall increase year-over-year — pharmaceuticals:

Ad economy chart

When just one industry segment out of ten is showing an increase, it suggests more than just some restructuring or re-jiggering is going on. Instead, it’s just as likely that the U.S. advertising economy remains stuck in a recession, even if the overall economy has finally emerged from it.

What are your thoughts on the tepid advertising results? Please share your views with other readers.

Magazine readership preferences confirm the continued primacy of print.

pileIn my line of work, I receive many magazines and other publications covering not only the marketing and advertising field, but also the industries and markets of our corporate clients.

Every time one of these subscriptions comes up for renewal, I’m strongly urged to choose the online/electronic offering instead of the print edition.

I know why, of course. Between the printing, postage and shipping considerations, magazines and other printed media represent the most involved (and the most costly) form of delivery.

And there’s also the issue of “currency” and “recency,” with breaking news being covered much quicker and more efficiently online.

Still, I generally opt for print for the simple reason that a physical magazine, newspaper or newsletter is easier to browse and to read. I like the “linearity” of a print magazine and find magazine reading less satisfactory online.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m very happy digital versions of the print editions exist. I love the fact that I can go online and access an article of particular interest that I may wish to archive in electronic form, or pass along to friends and colleagues.

So, consider me an “all of the above” sort of person. Still, there are times when I think that I represent a more traditional way of thinking about consuming news articles — one that’s decidedly losing popularity.

But then … we see the results of a new digital magazine market study, published by Mequoda Group, a media consulting firm.

The survey, which was conducted in July 2015 among ~3,650 Americans adults age 18 or higher who have access to the Internet, found that digital magazine consumption has now reached ~43% of print magazine consumption.

So digital is rising.

But the Mequoda research also finds that ~70% of American adults who have access to the Internet have read an average of three print magazine issues in the past 30 days. (2.91 print magazine issues, to be precise.)

Here are the findings for print magazines read over the previous month:

  • Read one print magazine: ~18%
  • Read two: ~19%
  • Read three: ~13%
  • Read four: ~8%
  • Read five or more: ~13%

At the same time, ~37% of American adults who have access to the Internet have read an average of 2.37 digital magazine issues over the past month. Here’s how that breakdown looks:

  • Read one digital/online magazine: ~14%
  • Read two: ~8%
  • Read three: ~5%
  • Read four: ~3%
  • Read five or more: ~7%

What this means is that in 2015, print magazine readership activity outnumbers digital by a 2-to-1 margin.

The Mequoda research tested five reasons why people might prefer reading digital versions over printed versions of magazines. Of those who read digital magazines, here are the percentages who deemed those reasons “very important”:

  • Offers immediate delivery: ~42% consider very important
  • Portability / easy to carry: ~40%
  • Environmentally friendly: ~40%
  • Cheaper than print: ~39%
  • Thousands of titles: ~35%

The bottom line on this topic appears to be that the demand for print delivery of periodicals remains significant … and that publishers who elect to shift to “all-digital” delivery stand to lose at least some of their reader engagement.

Even so, I have no doubt that publishers will continue to push electronic delivery in the hopes that print can eventually fall completely by the wayside.

The full report is available free of charge from Mequoda here.

The needle finally moves in changing TV viewership habits.

graphDespite the many changes we’ve seen in the way people can consume media today, one thing that has remained pretty consistent has been the dynamics of TV viewership.

Things have taken so long to evolve, to some observers it’s seemed as if TV was effectively immune to all of the changes happening around it.

But now we’re finally seeing some pretty fundamental shifts happening in the way content on TV sets is consumed.  Two new surveys chart what’s changing.

A recently released report from Accenture, which surveyed nearly 25,000 online consumers during the 4th quarter of 2014, notes that viewership of long-form video content (television and movies on a TV screen) is now in decline across all demographic categories – not merely among younger viewers.

The decline amounts to ~11% over the previous year among American viewers.  It’s even bigger (a ~13% decline) when looking at worldwide figures.

Not surprisingly, the drop is less pronounced among viewers aged 55+ (for them it’s closer to a 5% reduction) than with young viewers age 14-17 (a decline in excess of 30%).  But the fact that declines are now occurring across the board is what’s noteworthy.

At the same time, the Accenture survey found that consumers who watch long-form video on connected devices rather than on TVs aren’t all that enamored with the experience:

  • About half find that watching online video isn’t a great experience because of Internet connectivity issues.
  • Approximately 40% complain of too much advertising. 
  • Around one-third encounter problems with video buffering … and an equal portion report problems with audio distortion or dropouts.

More highlights from the Accenture research are available for download here.

time-shifted TV

Another study – this one from Hub Entertainment Research – has found that viewers who have broadband and watch at least five hours of TV per week are actually watching more time-shifted TV than they are watching live broadcasts.

On average, participants in this study reported that ~47% of the TV shows they watch are live and ~53% are time-shifted.

Among younger viewers (age 16-34), time-shifted viewing is even more prevalent (around 60%).

Most time-shifted viewing is still happening through a set top box:  DVRs (~34%) and video-on-demand from a pay TV provider (~19%).

For consumers, being able to watch TV on their own schedule isn’t just more convenient; it has also made back catalogue material more accessible.

Survey respondents noted the following reasons for watching shows at a different time:

  • Can watch when it’s more convenient to do so: ~60% of respondents
  • Can see missed episodes:  ~37%
  • Can skip ads: ~37%
  • Can pause or rewind the program:  ~34%
  • It takes less time to watch the show: ~33%
  • Not available to watch the show during live airing: ~29%
  • Can watch show episodes back-to-back: ~19%

Notice that ad avoidance isn’t at the top of the list.  Nonetheless, for the industry this is a mixed bag.  Time-shifting has clearly put pressure on the business model and how the TV business traditionally makes money – namely, shows watched live, with ads.

Additional details on the Hub Entertainment Research report can be accessed here.

What’s the Latest Forecast on U.S. Ad Spending?

ad forecastingMost observers agree that 2015 will be a decent-or-better year for ad spending.  But how will it break down by media segment?

Industry and market forecasting firm Strategy Analytics has just released its latest U.S. advertising spend forecast, which it expects to total almost $190 billion.  That’s about a 3% increase over 2014.

But there are wide variations in the growth expectations depending on the media type.

Digital advertising leads the pack, with an expected growth increase in double digits, while at the other end of the scale, print advertising is forecast to drop by approximately 8%:

  • Digital advertising: 13.0% increase in 2015 U.S. ad spend
  • Outdoor advertising: +4.8%
  • Cinema advertising: +3.4%
  • Radio advertising: +1.8%
  • TV advertising: +1.7%
  • Print advertising: -7.9%

Of course, “digital advertising” is a broad category, and within it Strategy Analytics expects certain sub-categories to grow at a faster clip:  Social media advertising looks to be the star in 2015 (+31%), followed by video advertising (+29%) and mobile advertising (+20%).

Even with these lucrative growth expectations, search advertising (SEM) will continue to represent the lion’s share of digital ad revenues – around 45%.

Also, despite the dramatic growth of digital, the segment isn’t expected to break 30% of all U.S. advertising in 2015.  The more traditional TV ad segment continues to lead all others, although it has fallen below the 50% share of all advertising in recent years.

Here’s what Strategy Analytics is forecasting for ad expenditures by media segment for 2015:

  • TV advertising: ~$79 billion in 2015 U.S. ad spending
  • Digital advertising: ~$53 billion
  • Print advertising: ~$28 billion
  • Radio advertising: ~$18 billion
  • Outdoor advertising: ~$9 billion
  • Cinema advertising: ~$1 billion

Strategy AnalyticsLeika Kawasaki, a digital media analyst and one of the Strategy Analytics Advertising Forecast report’s co-authors, notes that  looking ahead to 2018, TV’s share of advertising revenue is expected to fall further to ~40%, while digital advertising’s share will reach ~35%.

However, it’s not that TV’s volume will be declining — it’s more that digital will be robbing more funds from other segments (particularly radio and print).

Additional details on the 2015 forecast can be viewed here — if you wish to shell out $7,000 for the report, that is.

So Many Magazines … So Little Time?

Who wants easy, unlimited access to thousands of publications?

magazinesYou might not, but millions of other people do, apparently.

And the crowd is getting ready to increase more, most likely.

As if there wasn’t enough material to read already, some online publication bundlers are making sure that people have unlimited access to the world’s most important periodicals for one low price.

This week, The Wall Street Journal blog reported that Magzter, a company that provides a single access point for more than 5,000 magazines published around the world, has now introduced a service plan it calls Magzter Gold.

logoIt’s an “all-you-can-read” option that gives subscribers online access to approximately 2,000 publications – many of them top-circulation magazines like ESPN, Maxim, New York Magazine and Forbes – for a flat rate of just $9.99 a month or $99.99 per year.

And access to this huge repository of publications is quick and easy via desktops, laptops and tablets, plus iOS and Android phone apps.

There’s also a plan called Magzter Gold Lite, allowing access to the subscriber’s choice of any five magazine titles (which can be changed from month to month).

The cost of that subscription?  $5 per month.

These two new programs are aimed at increasing Magzter’s subscriber base, which already numbers more than 4 million active monthly users.

Magzter isn’t the only company offering online access to a family of publications.  Other providers like Readly and Next Issue also offer programs encompassing the stable of magazine titles belonging to various different publishing arms (Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Time).

But none of them have anything like the sheer number of titles Magzter is offering.

Readers of my generation (over the age of 50) grew up with print magazines and are preternaturally drawn to the tactile sensation of reading a physical magazine.  But I suspect that publication bundlers like Magzter represent the tip of the spear rather than simply a passing fancy.

The question is whether the changing mode of delivery ends up destroying the actual product that Magzter and others are able to peddle.  After all, were it not for the print magazines to begin with, what would these aggregators have to sell?

If what it boils down to is offering fee-based premium content that is no longer tied to a print magazine because the publication is no longer available in hard-copy form, will the quality of that content continue to be as high?

In many — perhaps most — cases, I think it’s doubtful.

If the print magazines that underlie the digital product offerings disappear, it wouldn’t surprise me if millions of readers fall away from subscription services in favor of trolling the Internet for similar content that’s easily available for the bargain price of … goose egg.

For those who are using access services like Magzter or Readly today, would you recommend them to others?  Is it the wave of the future?  Please share your perspectives with other readers here.

Native Advertising, Sponsored Content and “Truthiness”

There are just a few slight problems with sponsored content:  Readers consider it less trustworthy … and value it less.

Lack of trust in sponsored content
It’s really not that interesting — and I don’t trust you, anyway.

Here’s a behavioral statistic that should be a little disconcerting to marketers:  Only about one in four readers scroll down on sponsored content (native advertising) on publisher websites.

Compare that to ~70% of those same readers who scroll down on other types of news content.

That’s what the chief executive officer of Chartbeat, a developer and purveyor of real-time web analytics software for media publishers, has contended, leading others to try to probe these attitudes further and try to find out more about the dynamics that are at work.

One such effort is online field research conducted this past summer by Contently, a freelance writing services clearinghouse.  It discovered that the difference in engagement levels relates to “trust.”

Generally speaking, readers trust sponsored content a whole lot less than they do “normal” content.

More specifically, here’s what Contently’s research, which targeted ~550 U.S. adults ages 18 to 65, found in terms of trust attitudes:

  • I generally don’t trust sponsored content: ~54%
  • I trust the content only if I trust the brand already: ~22%
  • I trust the content only if I trust the publication: ~19%
  • I generally trust sponsored content:  ~5%

It gets even murkier when we consider that not all readers agree on the same definition of “sponsored content.”

While the largest proportion of people consider “sponsored content” on a news website to be an article that an advertiser paid to be created as well as had input into its content, it was only a plurality of respondents:

  •  A sponsor paid and influenced the article: ~48%
  • A news site wrote it, but a sponsor paid money for it to run: ~20%
  • A sponsor paid for its name to appear next to news content: ~18%
  • A sponsor wrote the article:  ~13%

And here’s a real kick in the gut:  More people in the Contently survey would rather be served “bad ol’ banner ads” than encounter sponsored news and other posts:

  • Would rather see banner ads:  ~57% of respondents
  • Prefer sponsored posts because banner ads are annoying: ~26%
  • Prefer sponsored posts because they’re more interesting than banner ads: ~18%

The findings aren’t much different based on the age or education levels of respondents, either.

If anything, more highly educated people (those with graduate degrees) are most likely to prefer banner ads over sponsored posts.  The reason boils down to concern over the issue of deception:  A large majority of respondents reported that they have ever “felt deceived” upon realizing an article was actually sponsored by an advertiser.

Considering the disapproving numbers collected in the survey, it’s not surprising that Contently also found that respondents are far prone to click on a piece of sponsored content compared to other content:

  • Less likely to click on sponsored content: ~66%
  • More likely: ~1%
  • Equally likely: ~33%

credible sourceLastly, publishers should take note that their credibility is being diminished in the eyes of many, based on the practice of publishing native advertising.  The Contently survey found that nearly 60% expressed the view that publishers lose credibility when they run such sponsored content.

Of course, native advertising and sponsored content isn’t going to go away.  It’s too wrapped up in today’s business models for successful publishing and successful brand engagement.

But it’s clear that publishers, advertisers and the brands they represent have a bigger hurdle to clear in order for their content to be considered worthy of their readers’ attention and engagement.