How Has Content Consumption Overtaken Sleeping?

I’d wager that everyone in the digital industry has had content rammed down their throats in the last few years. It’s important, it’s best practice - it’s apparently the king too. Well, the repercussions of this may well have affected the public somewhat.

The recent Communications Market 2014 research by Ofcom revealed that UK adults now spend more time consuming content than they do sleeping. The average sleeping time came in at 8 hours 21 minutes, but adults now spend 20 minutes more than this on media devices every day.

It’s a striking statistic, but it’s not entirely surprising. Over a full week, an average UK adult will be bombarded with devices including televisions, mobiles, tablets and laptops - even print media is a daily influence. That the time spent engaging with material is growing with each passing year is not a coincidence either.

Why? Mobile devices, 24 hour news channels and relentless social media. A public who prefer continuity to closure. Nights spent in the company of notification lights and persistent vibration. A generation uncomfortable with silence. Take your pick.

The mobile internet audience grew seven times faster than the laptop & desktop audience.

Again it’s not going to cause any gasps, but mobile audience’s rose to 30.2 million unique viewers, an 11% increase from the 27.2 million found in the last study. The increasing use of mobile devices and large amount of social interaction in this always-on world are two driving factors behind this.

The research also looked into fifteen to twelve year olds. Amongst the findings, it noted that TV viewing and radio listening are both falling off in this age group, with streaming services preferred. YouTube’s total audience increased by over 5 million since the last study, hitting 40 million visitors. As this generation ages, TV will likely be replaced as the most used media platform.

Smartphones make media more accessible than ever before and as convenience increases audiences usually follow. This consumption then breeds further creation - evidence can be found in the countless status updates and outrageous numbers of photographs uploaded every hour. It’s a self-feeding cycle and mobile devices are the main tool.

From those aged 16 or older, only 2% said they would miss print media.

The implications of a world addicted to mobile devices are far reaching. While it will likely keep marketers in a job, it’s something of a polarising subject. Some may warn about the danger of getting square eyes, but life’s contents are inevitably changing. Is experiencing a second hand account of a brilliant human feat via print, oral or digital means really any different?

Whether it’s found on the wall of a cave, in a book or on a screen, people have always turned to content. It opens experiences and engages minds. Given the choice, would you attempt to cross a semi-frozen lake yourself or watch an underdressed stranger try to do it for you? Experiencing certain things by proxy certainly holds its appeal.

Content is everywhere and its scope is limitless. It’s understandable why people would dedicate more time to it than a vital but ultimately unconscious process.

Flickr Creative Commons Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

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