In the last month, BARB and Ofcom have both brought out their latest research into media consumption. We've look at the key trends and lessons for PR professionals, questioning whether the days of the humble press release are numbered. We also provide a list of other useful sources if you want to take a deeper look...


Ofcom's 2015 Media Consumption Report 

Published in April, this useful annual research from Ofcom looks at media use, attitudes and understanding, and how these change over time, with a particular focus on digital exclusion. The report covers TV, radio, mobile, games, and the internet, with field work conducted in autumn 2015 and key changes compared to 2014.


The top four trends that caught our eyes were:

1.     There is increasing polarity between different age groups in terms of communications activity. Whereas 25 years ago, all age groups shared just two common means of communication – landlines and letters – the landscape is now considerably more varied, and there is a risk that common means of communication that cut across demographics are becoming increasingly rare, with implications for social connectivity and information-sharing. 

2.     Mobile phones are now the "most-missed media device", compared to 2014 when it was still the TV. Smartphones are the device most used for social media and preferred for the majority of online activities. However, that doesn’t mean TV is in decline. BARB data shows the average UK viewer still watches three hours and 37 minutes of TV a day, two thirds of which is commercial TV and 87% live. Equally, BARB’s Annual viewing report argues that the TV vs online divide is a mis-representation and that TV, in all its forms, is now driving the growth of the internet.

3.     Just under half of internet users watch videos online at least weekly. More than three quarters of internet users (78%) have watched a short video online, with almost half (48%) doing so weekly. That's an increase of nine percentage points since 2014. Video is becoming a dominant content format - in December 2015, for the first time ever, more people visited YouTube than Google. Monthly desktop visits to YouTube outstripped Google's by 5.3 per cent at the end of the year, which is a significant milestone to have passed, and a trend that reflects a change in behaviour amongst younger browsers particularly. But neither come close to beating Facebook, which remains the most popular internet site in the world.

4.     Internet users are more likely than in 2014 to listen to radio stations online. Just under half (47%) of internet users ever listen to radio stations online, while 22% do so at least weekly. Year on year, there has been a ten percentage point increase in those who say they listen to radio stations online (37% vs. 47%) and a nine percentage point increase in weekly use (22% vs. 13%). This reinforces the point about broadcasters content continuing to survive but to migrate online. 


How does media consumption vary across age groups…?

  • Adults aged 16-24 are less likely than all adults (46% vs. 54%) to read paper copies of books, magazines or newspapers. But that doesn't mean we should all become grumpy old men complaining about the illiterate youth of today. 
  • Compared to all adults (25%), use of a games console/ games player is more likely for 16- 24s (51%) and 25-34s (42%), and less likely among over-55s (8% of 55-64s, 4% of 65-74s and 1% of over-75s). This will come as no surprise to parents of teenagers we're sure!
  • Compared to all adults, use of a mobile phone, and a laptop or netbook, is more likely among 16-24s, 25-34s and 35-44s, and less likely among 65-74s and over-75s.
  • Use of a tablet computer is more likely among 35-44s (66%), and less likely among 65-74s (31%) and over-75s (15%). This is also the case for smart TVs (38% of 35-44s and 16% of 65-74s and 4% of over-75s).
  • Use of a radio set is more likely among over-55s (59% of 55-64s, 64% of 65-74s and 59% of over-75s) and less likely among those aged 16-24s (27%) and 25-34s (34%). 


How will the device diversification impact PR...?

Whilst you don’t start your communications strategy by thinking about devices it is important to recognise that the formats people are viewing in are changing. You need to know which devices are most frequently used by your target audiences. Your content needs to be, at least compatible, if not tailored to the device that it will be consumed on.  

  • A majority of adults say they use three types of device: a TV set – either standard or smart (93%), mobile phone (90%), and laptop or netbook computer (63%). 
  • A majority (54%) also still read the paper copies of books, magazines or newspapers.
  • Around half use a tablet computer (50%) or a radio set (48%). 
  • Overall, use of any type of TV set (standard or smart) does not vary by age, but use of a standard TV set is more likely among over-75s (90% vs. 73% of all adults). 
  • Despite the rise in mobile consumption, according to MarketingWeek only 10% of ad spend is on mobile, which is indicative of the fact that it is still hard to demonstrate ROI on mobile advertising. 
  • The amount of time UK adults spend daily with mobile devices is expected to surpass the amount of time spent online via desktop and laptop computers this year. 

We believe the challenge for clients and agencies alike will be to crack visual storytelling in these formats to match the personalised behaviour of consumers on their devices.

PRs need to think beyond providing written content to the dwindling number of print journalists. Does that mean that the humble press release is dead? Probably not quite yet but its days are certainly numbered. 


Want to read more about media trends? Here are some useful sources: