Global Online Content Consumption Doubled In 2020

I happened to see my wife’s screen time analytics on her phone recently. She’s spending an average of over seven hours a day on her phone.

And she’s not alone.

Global online content consumption is soaring in 2020, a new study of over 10,000 people in five countries says. The previous normal was just over three hours, but now my wife is — at least in this respect — completely and totally average. Average daily time spent consuming content is now six hours and 59 minutes, which includes phone, TV, and other forms of digital media.

The obvious question: if that’s average, how much screen time are the outliers getting?

Clearly, eight, nine, even ten hours a day. In fact, as a different study I covered a month ago says, the average person spend a quarter of his or her waking time on their mobile device, and in some countries like Indonesia, it jumps to six hours a day.

A lot of the surge is attributable to global lockdowns thanks to Coronavirus, of course.

Some of the biggest “beneficiaries” of the increase are connected TV option like Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, and Disney+, with 44% of all consumers using CTV devices more.

“Overall, YouTube has seen the greatest increased interest, with 43% of consumers spending more time on the platform,” says DoubleVerify, the company behind the study. “Meanwhile, TikTok has seen the highest growth across the 18-24 demographic.”

Interestingly, President Trump’s recent crusade against Tiktok was actually good for the platform, according to data from App Annie: weekly active users in the U.S grew from 52.1 million in mid-August to 53.5 million in early September, with an additional 150,000 to 200,000 new installs daily throughout September.

One particularly American challenge during this massive jump in media consumption: the U.S. obsession with fake news.

Since most of this increasing quantity of digital content is free thanks to our attention via the attention merchants of surveillance capitalism, advertisers pay the bills. But there’s a problem: the study found that “55% of respondents stating they would be less likely, or would never, consume a brand if the brand’s promotion appeared beside fake or inflammatory news.” Unfortunately, since we’re typically tempted to think that “fake news” is information that we happen to disagree with, that makes it a little challenging for advertisers.

Mental health continues to be a challenge in Covid-19 times, and increases in screen time for social media and news are strongly correlated with decreases in mental health.

Which means that a doubling in screen time is probably not a great thing for us personally or as a society.

My wife justifies her seven hours by saying she doesn’t watch TV, and that’s where she’s got me. If you add sports and a few other programs to my just-over-two-hours of screen time, as reported by my iPhone … I’m probably pretty average too.

The full study is available here.

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