ACCORDING to a new study on media consumption around the world, sometime this year the internet will finally surpass television as the biggest source of news and entertainment for the public.
The Economist published a brief report on the study earlier this week. The study was conducted by the New York-based advertising agency GroupM, and found that in 2015, the average amount of time people spend online, watching television, listening to the radio or reading newspapers each day is about 8 hours. Of that amount of time, about 3 hours and 15 minutes is devoted to the Internet, while just slightly over three hours is spent watching TV.
Here in Asia – the study divides the world into four large regions – the Internet has gained a larger share of the consumer’s “media day” mainly at the expense of television. While radio and print media are also declining, their losses over the last three years have been slight, between 1 and 2 percent of their share of the total. TV viewing, however, has dropped by about 12 percent.
The study suggests a couple reasons for this, and these have implications not only for those of us in the media industry, but for our audience as well.
First, rapid advances in technology – in particular, the development of low-cost smartphones – have spread access to the Internet to millions of people in a very short period of time. Increased online activity has as a result completely erased the lines between forms of media. The growth in streaming television, video, and music, and, as those of us in our particular business are keenly aware, digital news seems to point to a future, one that is not far away, when the Internet might be the only “form” of media of any significance. And because nearly all of it is interactive, every consumer becomes a potential content provider.
For the media business, this makes it much more difficult to set the public agenda, but by the same token, makes a successful effort to do so very difficult to overcome. It also puts a great deal of pressure on media outlets to deliver content quickly; research done a couple years ago found that among news articles shared on Twitter about the same subject but from different sources, the first to be posted would be shared up to 10 times more than the second.
The need for speed can lead to some embarrassing errors, such as the recent example of one newspaper here which “executed” the unfortunate, but still very much alive Mary Jane Veloso, when the headline story appeared online and in print. The fact that nearly anyone can create “news” also occasionally catches some media outlets off-guard. In another cringe-inducing incident a couple years ago, the same paper was taken in by a spoof magazine cover and reported that President B.S. Aquino 3rd had been named one of that well-known publication’s “100 Most Influential People” – only later realizing the joke when it was pointed out the President was being lauded for “working dead,” “beauty tips,” and playing the “blame game.”
The new media paradigm is, we think, a good thing. People now have unprecedented access to information and the ability to connect with others, and while some may rue the personal detachment it seems to cause – people spend more time looking at their phones or tablets than they do at each other – on the whole, it can, should, and for many people does amount to a richer, broader social and intellectual experience.
But that comes at the cost of ease. Media providers and the audience alike must put much more effort into critical thinking and seeking out alternative views, because the information available, while great in volume, is more diffuse in substance. While we in the media strive to provide content relevant to the new media paradigm, we of course must always remind ourselves that the timeless principles of fairness, accuracy, and thoroughness should never go out of style, and remind our audience that they should hold all their sources of information to the same standards.