Quite apart from the fact that digitised media and content now exist for all types of media regardless of whether it's delivered over the air, in a book or on a DVD, the way consumers are adopting and using the internet, makes the term utterly redundant. To sum up, (if you are online) when was the last time you consumed anything analogue? This may sound trivial, but as we explore below, it has major impacts for the way we view the Internet.
But first there are a number of key trends as apparent in our data that demonstrate why “digital” is disappearing concept.
Increasingly "traditional media" types are delivered through the Internet
We've tracked from Wave 1 that TV, video, film, sports and news are increasingly delivered through the Internet.
For example by Wave 5 (June 2011), 51% of 16-24s had watched a film online in the past month. While this drops for older consumers, a substantial 17% of 55-64s watched one. For TV programming, 40% of 16-24s viewed in the past month and a more significant 24% of 55+. These figures will continue to expand.
This trend to consuming your “traditional media” online is even more pronounced in markets like China, where internet consumers view an incredible volume of traditional content online. For example, 62% had watched a film in the last month, rising to 66% for 16-24s. This is driven by the massive choice of professional on-demand content found in platforms like YouKu, lower quality TV content via analogue and a lack of multi TV households.
The Internet doesn’t look like the Internet
As we see above, the Internet is far more likely to deliver all types of media and content. This will explode as packaged internet services and applications become the norm. The way we consume the Internet less likely to be through a browser but an interface that looks far more like a TV electronic programme guide, a newspaper or a magazine on a tablet. As our Wave 5 Trends stated, applications are the fastest growing thing online. The browser (the typical perception of the Internet) will be just one of many windows to online services.
People are evolving into a state of constant connection
Thanks to access through non-PC connections we are increasingly permanently connected to the Internet in some form. And many people are using the same services e.g Facebook, Twitter etc across all platforms, therefore creating an integrated internet experience of total and constant connection.
A number of interesting data points demonstrate this. Just over 38% of internet users globally, use their mobile while watching TV, 49% their laptop and 8% a tablet. Only 19% never multi-task between TV and internet. This demonstrates the constant need to be connected even in dedicated “non digital” media occasions.
In addition, we recently established that 41% of Facebook users used more than one platform access point in the month of June 2011. This is a growing trend, people are adding more platforms and increasing their connection time, rather than replacing one platform with another.
Lastly, when exploring where people typically use mobile internet, we see that the leading usage point is 'in the home', with 31% choosing that as a leading access point, over 22% 'while travelling'. Again, this demonstrates the growing need for constant connection as the Internet itself merges into a part of everyday life.
Fusion of real life into the internet
Increasingly, the Internet is entering real life experience or being fused into traditional offline processes. For example, location based services and geo-tagging were used by 46% of mobile internet users in June 2011. Real data, locations and experiences will increasingly be recorded and referenced into the social internet experience.
As we move into the future, the real world will become searchable and indexed online. Thanks to NFC tags, all real world products will become a data point. This will allow you to search for products in stock in a local store, track the location of your lost keys or search the contents of a real book, that sits on your shelves.
Even now you can track the real-time physical location of friends and family. While it’s not popular currently, just 28% like the idea, and only 32% of 16-24s, it will surely grow as a concept.
Why is this important?
Referring to the Internet as "digital" implies that it is a media and a siloed entity. As we've shown here and explored before, the internet delivers every media, information and experience. In the future, it will deliver every type of information imaginable to every device.
Even today, "digital" is a dangerous position when building communications strategy or planning implementation. Talking of “digital” implies one mode of thought and skill set rather than viewing the entire online opportunity.
Holistic internet strategy requires a broad view of all media and content types and an understanding of how they connect. It also requires a detailed view of your target customer across all internet platforms and applications.
From a research point of view, it means that understanding one internet platform, without taking into account all of the others, is increasingly pointless. Consumers have an integrated, always connected experience across multiple devices. Also, as internet experience is increasingly about content, social, or apps, understanding behaviour is increasingly more important than URL visits. As you may have guessed, these are some of the principles that underpin the GlobalWebIndex.
This will have ramifications for how companies and agencies build their organisations and staffing structures:
- You need multiple platform internet strategists, people who understand all media types, the big picture and how they fit together
- Increasing focus on insight, strategy and a shift from optimisation and pure play advertising online
- Building teams that can turn the strategy into reality will have increasing specialisation of skill sets, much of which will have come from offline media
- Content focused teams will become key, regardless of delivery point. For example if you plan and buy TV, even now it makes sense to think about TV content that delivers through broadcast direct to the set, satellite / cable, on demand internet, TV programming through apps and mobile and TV services