User trends Media distribution used to be a one-way street, delivering content from creators and publishers to passive consumers. But today, as users produce, create and distribute their own media content, either alone or in collaboration with traditional service providers, every smartphone owner potentially has the power of a traditional media network, and every Facebook account the potential of a truly global audience. This empowerment of an audience morphed into media co-producers and co-distributors will continue changing the media landscape.
Users currently are choosing their mobile phone as the preferred platform and video as the preferred content. The numbers of users of media services, such as Netflix and Youtube, are growing at the speed of an avalanche. At the same time the introduction of new applications, such as the user-generated live streaming platform Twitch.tv, are hitting the networks and causing huge traffic volumes.
By 2025, we predict that the Internet-of-things paradigm will facilitate completely new services which will put even more strain on the network infrastructure. People will be constantly connecting to the Internet via new devices, perhaps smart contact lenses or empowered glasses, providing an almost completely immersive and integrated experience. Users will be able to communicate seamlessly and effortlessly with anyone, and everyone, on the planet using the devices they happen to be carrying with them or the new sensors and tangible devices available and embedded in the surrounding environment.
Before the digital revolution, users were forced to accept the choices that media monopolists made for them. These old, shared media consumption arenas are becoming less important. Users no longer exclusively turn to mass media for information and entertainment. They demand, and get, media that is tailor-made to the users’ every need, shifting during the day with their moods and with the seasons. The result is a media landscape where few individuals are viewing the world through the same lens. This is a tremendous societal challenge.
Online all the time
We are also moving away from linear radio and TV to a so called pick-&-mix era, where audiences prefer Over-the-Top (OTT) 1 services. The Internet is no longer a kind of media; it is carrier of all other medias.
As these new individualists demand to be online 24/7, mobile media consumption will continue to grow. The small screens and extreme environments in which future media will be consumed poses new challenges. Moving from the passive past to an active future, consumers prefer interactive media. They do not want to be served, they want to affect and generate.
The array of choices creates a certain restlessness. Users scan content, jump between services and act disloyally towards their former media providers. They multitask, using several platforms at a time. They opt into computer game influenced experiences to get instant satisfaction. But this behaviour also creates a counter-movement, as users express a need for slower content, deeper analysis and sharper focus. In order to navigate a fragmented media landscape with an overload of choices, users turn to peer recommendations for advice, and create new, digital peg communities – loosely connected, momentary communities that often dissolve as quickly as they are created. Here, users get the satisfaction they are looking for: no commitment, a minimum of long-term responsibility and a maximum of great experiences.
This craving for speed, shallow content and anonymity does not always allow for quality interactions. It also propels users towards demanding more authentic experiences. Therefore, younger user groups tend to follow brands that share their vision, be it climate, fair-trade or any other universal topic of responsibility.
More than ever, users turn away from advertising, which is not perceived as quality content. 21 % of all Swedes use an ad-blocker in their browser. This figure rises to 39 % in young males aged 15–22 years old. Also, they are not simply consuming content; they are sharing it and becoming brand ambassadors. Paid media has a new and strong competitor, or complement, in earned media, which users tend to trust more than paid media.
The importance of integrity and security increases with each surveillance revelation. A recent report, Swedes and the Internet 20142 , revealed a kind of Snowden effect. One out of five Swedes worry about government surveillance. This is up from one in ten, in 2011. One out of four Swedes also worries that companies like Google and Facebook infringe on their privacy. This worry will most probably eventually translate into demands, new regulations and – in the long run – a stronger user empowerment.
This is article is a section of the Swedish research agenda Future Media Distribution