UK Media Consumption: Report
A new independent report commissioned by financial service company Zurich has identified a number of key trends that are set to radically alter the way in which the media is consumed by the UK population.
The report, compiled by trend analysts The Future Laboratory, has highlighted the rising number of media hubs in cities across the country, the UK gaming development industry, the demand for bite-sized content and the monetisation of user-generated content as important developments in the way in which the UK consumer accesses and uses the media.
The key findings of the report are as follows:
The web is becoming embedded into the UK consumer’s daily life. It is crucial to the working day for many of the UK’s workforce and is seen as a key recreational and social tool. With 85 per cent of UK internet users now on a high speed connection (The Oxford Internet Survey), and the city centre of Milton Keynes offering free WiFi access, use of the Internet has changed dramatically over the last four years when just 19 per cent had a high-speed connection.
The rise in the popularity of internet use has allowed the medium to shake off the impression that it’s ‘just for geeks’. According to figures from internet market research company, comScore, the UK was the top social media consumer in Europe with nearly 25 million unique visitors using social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace in August 2007, spending on average, 5.6 hours per month on the sites. This underlines the Internet’s role in contributing to the social lives of the consumer, with a quarter of UK internet users having met a friend online that they did not know before.
New demographics are also continuing to embrace new technology. The amount of female users in the gaming market continues to grow, with those over-55 a key target audience for many online marketers.
Matt Locke, Channel 4’s new-media commissioning editor believes that the use of the internet has ‘taken off’. "More people are going online than ever before, and engaging in varied activities which go beyond the original task based-based uses like booking holidays or buying novels." Channel 4 itself, as with many of the ‘traditional’ media channels are having to make changes to their business structure in order to compete in this evolving market. Many television channels now have their own on-demand service and Sky’s PVR technology has proved extremely successful with over two million users.
New Media Clusters
Former industrial cities have seen their declining landscape transformed by the explosion of new media centres. Bringing together the minds of like minded individuals, the clusters house individuals from various digital sectors - from gaming to web design - in order to replicate the success Silicon Valley. Many are funded by regional development offices and hope to provide the UK with a strong, business focused digital talent pool. One successful spin off from a digital media initiative launched in Sunderland is Aidept, an exercise gaming product which is one step away from being sold to a European manufacturer.
The PC gaming and console gaming industry is worth a combined total of $15.2 billion (£7.2 billion), with the UK one of the largest territories for games publishers. This is reflected in the increasing number of UK universities that offer degree courses in games design and development at a graduate and post graduate level, with London’s Goldsmith’s one of the newest.
David Jones, who runs UK games development house, Real Time World, believes that the change from bedroom coders to full development studios has expanded the market. "Ten years ago games companies were run by backroom programmer types, but the industry has changed. Today, technology has advanced so it’s not solely dependent on coders, and the market has broadened too." In a similar vein to internet usage, these new expanding demographics in particular, are the female market and those over the age of 35. The technology at the disposal of the general UK consumer has meant that innovation will continue to push the boundaries even further.
These advancements, along with the changing face of the general UK working day have lead to the rise of micro media. Internet dramas, mobile movies and micro blogging are all changing the face of the media landscape as traditional media channels explore new ways in which to reach traditional television audiences.
Social networking site, Bebo has launched Kate Modern, a new web drama that caters for such a market. The drama, which tells the story of 20 year old London based graduate in three minute clips has proved enough of a success for Bebo to launch another web drama of similar ilk. "The response from our users has been so phenomenal that we’re taking the format to the next level by embracing the web as a new medium for story telling," said Joanne Shields of Bebo.
Other micro media channels such as micro blogging site, Twitter has seen just as much interest with the likes of Sky News and many influential UK bloggers utilising the technology.
As camera enabled mobile phones, faster internet connections and more user friendly tools become widely available, the age of user generated content is well and truly mainstream. Citizen journalism, used extensively by major news organisations is becoming more than just a fad, with the likes of Channel 5 news now offering £100 for public footage, and sites such as Mr Paparazzi offering payment for photos.
There are various other means of generated income from the web aimed particularly at the general public. Sites such as Zubka pay users for referrals to jobs and blogging remains a potential revenue stream for many.
The UK media scene is creating waves throughout the world and the ways in which we consume it are changing. When once we would fit our lives around the media, advances in technology and changes in our regular working day have meant that, in order to survive, the media now has to revolve around us.