This time last year, we took a look at the annual Ofcom and BARB consumer media viewing habits, to see if the press release was dead. The weighty reports look at what we watch, when and how, including on the internet, games and TV, both on-demand and live. A year on, we’ve looked at this year’s figures to see if Trump’s tweets, ‘fake news’, and the ‘Mainstream Media’ (MSM) mean PR’s have to re-write the rules of engagement.

The main trends that caught our eye were:


Repeat custom is on the rise

There has been a sizeable increase in the proportion of internet users saying they only use websites and apps they’ve used before (42% up from 31% in 2014).

The past year has been shrouded in the stigma of ‘fake news’ and false stories being shared online, it’s arguably no surprise that people are becoming more conscious of where they consume their media. Traditional media brands are trying to invest in quality, hold on to customer loyalty and maintain trust in the face of an onslaught of clickbait ad chasers. This may be a sign that they are changing. Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times, told us recently that in ten years, he expects the FT to be online only. However, Ofcom does point out that this could also be the result of the high use of sites such as Google, Facebook and Amazon for most searches.


Age matters

There is increasing polarity between different age groups in terms of communications activity.

In a world where people can communicate in a multitude of ways, it’s no surprise that different generations are using different methods of communication. Ofcom highlights the risk of not having a uniform means of communicating amongst demographics as a way of preventing social connectivity and information sharing.

For the PR professional, that means needing to be clearer than ever before with clients about who is important to them and where their audience is. Social media allows people to share content with other likeminded individuals, creating an echo chamber that fuels one line of conversation or opinion with limited input from the other side.  So, providing the right audience is targeted, there’s a higher chance more people in the group will see your news, but similarly, it can be harder to break away from that one area.


Engagement and activism are on the rise

Internet users are more likely than in 2014 to say they go online to find out about news/events in their local area, or to sign online petitions.

Perhaps not surprising after a tumultuous year, which saw thousands of petitions, such as the one asking to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK and the one calling for a second EU referendum, received plenty of national news coverage. It would appear consumers are taking an active step to inform themselves on local news, while also making an attempt to influence certain issues.  


We’re still stupid?!

One in five users think that if a website is listed on a search engine results page, it must contain accurate and unbiased information.

This finding is perhaps one of the most fascinating results and highlights the important role search engines and platforms such as Google and Facebook play in the battle against ‘fake news’.

Facebook is taking an active step in an effort to stop the sharing of ‘fake news’ amongst its 1.94 billion users. But this is also a move to protect its reputation, after it was accused of playing a role in helping to accommodate the spread of ‘fake news’. The social media giant recently launched an ad campaign, advising people how to spot ‘fake news’ and be aware of it, and has certainly been a cause for discussion as it’s the first company to make such a move.

The bold move from Facebook does raise the question of whether, as a trusted source of information, there should be more regulation or more efforts taken to help make sure the consumer is not being played for a fool. Sites like Google play a huge role in influencing consumer opinion and it would seem they should take on the responsibility to aid the consumer.


What about the way in which people view content?

How people consume media should be at the heart of the decision making when choosing what content to produce for campaigns. How and where a video will be viewed should determine what style and length the content should be. PR’s and clients need to ask themselves “do I want to share this?”

  • More people are watching TV online and on mobile than live. According to BARB, tablets make up 45.8% of all TV viewing, PCs 37.8% and smartphones 16.3%. Prime viewing time is 9pm. Most people aren’t watching their favourite shows live, they’re watching them when it’s convenient for them and it’s likely on a much smaller screen that the traditional large TV.
  • That said, people are still watching sports and news shows live on air, with the Euro 2016 England vs Wales taking the top spot for most watched live show.
  • The majority of 16-34 year olds use their mobiles for communication, content creation, listening and watching online videos. However, the percentage of those using their mobiles to listen to audio content has dropped from 61% to 50%, while those viewing videos has gone up from 73% to 78%. Video may, in fact, be killing the radio star, as Freddie Mercury predicted.

As we all become more accustomed to tablets, phones, and the proliferation of online content, out trust levels are rising. Ten years ago, Facebook was a niche start-up, now over a quarter (26%) of the world’s population use it.  However, the real challenge for PR professionals lies in making sure the right platform is used to attract the right audience. With so many different means of consuming and sharing media, and with the proliferation of echo chambers online, it’s much more of a necessity than it has ever been to focus on who you are really trying to talk to, where they are, and what matters to them. 


Are we throwing away the PR rule book?

What hasn’t changed is that our stories need to be worth sharing. The challenge for communications campaigns is, was and always will be: finding a message that stands out from the crowd as new, or different or funny. Our media landscape is becoming more complex and personalised, which may require deeper specialisation which the PR industry, but ultimately it is still our job to help clients to articulate their narratives in a way that holds the attention; that moves or informs or entertains us.