min read

Are devices distracting us from human behaviors?

by Rita Quigley , 04.12.2013


Living in a world of advanced technology, attention often focuses on what device media is viewed on and the quantity of content consumed using that device. The focus should not only include the quality of content, but also examine how consumers interact with media and with other consumers in the consumption of that content.

Analysis of media consumption from a strictly quantitative perspective can only inform about what type of device is used, the phenomenon of second screen viewing and the popularity of a topic on social media. It cannot, however, determine why a person chooses to view certain content, what exactly s/he shares, or what effect social interaction or second screen viewing has on future content choices.

Looking directly at human relationships and trends of interaction, we discern active (‘pull’) and passive (‘push’) patterns of consumption which illustrate clearly why someone chooses to consume certain types of content and the extent of what s/he derives from the overall experience.

Observing what people gain from content watched can provide more succinct information to explain changes in media consumption patterns than can be provided by ‘a device-centric analysis of on-screen consumption’. Engaging with media is a social experience, and that experience can drive a shift in human-content interaction. Focusing on devices distracts us from more interesting conversations around human behavior, and sharing: the ‘pull’ and ‘push’ of media consumption.

The ‘pull’ mode of media consumption is where content is actively sought out and carries a sense of ‘discoverability’. That content is always available, allowing niche tastes to be satisfied, and in discovering it, basic needs of ‘freedom’ and ‘gratification’ are met. Conversely, the ‘push’ mode of consumption is more current – it is always up-to-date and socially included. It is happening as it’s viewed, so all consumers arrive at the ending or result together. The ‘push’ mode fulfils the needs of ‘well-being’ (‘I am socially connected’) and ‘security’ (‘I can trust this programme/newspaper’).

‘Pull’ and ‘push’ modes of media consumption are not mutually exclusive – a consumer can skip between the two according to content available or content actively sought out. The importance of knowing therefore how people consume media impacts directly on future content produced and what is also made available from existing archives. Individuals share views and opinions on content with those they interact with, through social media and in person. ‘Word of mouth’ remains the greatest incentive for an individual to seek out and watch something new. Such human interaction has the power to transform niche content into mainstream programming, as Game of Thrones has shown.

When the quality of viewing and human interaction is added to advances in technology and the quantity of devices used, we arrive at a fuller picture of media consumption. Such information can help reach consumers more strategically and directly as trends and tastes shift over time.

By acknowledging that consumers embrace the old as well as the new, we demonstrate that the ‘long tail’ is important to all media and not just that of print as originally suggested when the phrase was first coined. What people watch and what they talk about will invariably hold greatest sway.