Mobile internet use has increased massively over the last four years
Mobile internet use has increased massively over the last four years
A view from Jonathan Barnard

Mobile may be growing exponentially, but don't overlook traditional media - it's still massive

Mobile internet use has grown 69% a year for the last four years - but despite what you might think, this has not been at the expense of traditional media, writes Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith.

We are living in a mobile world. We check our phone as soon as we wake up in the morning, and just before sleep. We use our phones to read the news, catch up with our friends, buy groceries and plan holidays. Mobile apps are upending industries and even changing the way people date.

But despite mobile’s increasing presence in our lives, we still keep up with TV dramas and reality shows so we can chat about them in the office the next day, sing along to the radio in the car, and curl up with the Sunday papers. The way we consume media is evolving, but traditional media is far from extinct.

Last week we published the second edition of Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts, which looks at how patterns of media consumption are developing across the world. We launched this report last year because we knew that the ways people inform and entertain themselves are changing, and we wanted to look at the numbers behind the process.

It’s no surprise to find the amount time people spend online has grown enormously. Over the last four years, internet use has grown an average of 23% a year in the UK – well ahead of the global average of 16%. This has been driven by an explosion in mobile internet use, which has grown 69% a year.

Native-like ads point the way forward

This year UK consumers will spend as much time with mobile internet as with desktop, and next year the mobile internet will be second only to television in its demands on our time. As mobile usage grows, advertisers now need to establish how best to use it.

For most consumers, their mobile devices are very personal – their constant companions throughout the day – and they do not react well to unwarranted intrusion. Mobile banners tend to annoy people instead of engaging with them, and are often clicked more by accident than design.

But the native-like advertising on social media apps has been very successful, and points the way forwards for mobile marketing, by integrating brand communications seamlessly into the content that consumers want to see.

The mobile internet gives consumers the whole world at their fingertips, so it is more important than ever for advertisers to justify their presence by creating real value for consumers – by entertaining and informing, as well as giving them the best deals on the goods they desire.

The total time the average person spends with media has increased 21% over the last four years in the UK, compared with 10% worldwide – the luxury of having a world of contact at our fingertips means we are rarely confronted with dead time with nothing to do.

More internet time is as much an opportunity as a threat

The growth of mobile has eroded the consumption of other media, but not by a huge amount. Time spent with traditional media is down 7% in the UK over the last five years, and 9% globally. Traditional media still account for 61% of all media consumption, and TV alone for 39%.

What’s more, much of the time spent online is devoted to content produced by traditional publishers and broadcasters, and the internet offers these media owners fertile ground for cultivating new audiences. The expansion of internet consumption is an opportunity for traditional publishers and broadcasters, as much as a threat.

So advertisers should not be seduced by the rapid growth of internet consumption into abandoning traditional media. Consumers still spend more time with scheduled TV than anything else, and television remains the best place to communicate brand values as widely as possible.

Radio use is on par with desktop internet use, and plenty of people still prefer printed newspapers and magazines to their digital counterparts. Agencies need to assess the best way of getting the right message to the right consumer, and that means giving proper due to the tried-and-tested media that have worked well for decades, as well the latest digital ad technology.

Jonathan Barnard is the head of forecasting at Zenith