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Great Expectations: Apps and the Evolution of Media

by David Tice , 06.01.2014

There is no doubt that we demand a lot from our media content. We want to access past and present content, searching for it with tools that are speedy and intuitive, and share what we like the moment the urge strikes us. Mobile apps can make all that happen more readily than ever before

The unprecedented adoption of mobile devices, from smartphones to tablets, has increased our demand for on-the-go media access. Smartphones and tablets now command a greater share of internet time – about one fifth of all online minutes in the US, according to GfK’s MultiMedia Mentor® - and much of this is filtered through apps. Since their introduction to the market in Spring 2010, tablet devices have found their way into 32% of US homes, which is the fastest adoption curve we’ve seen in the 33 years of our annual survey and a potential major catalyst to media habits. Furthermore, about 61% of homes have an app-capable device — an impressive level replicated or even bettered in many other countries.

Because of these figures, most content providers offer their own apps — whether they are traditional radio stations, magazines, newspapers, or new players like streaming audio service. In many cases, they’re aggressively marketed to compete in the sea of mobile content.

A new “app society” will have big implications for media and entertainment companies, which will be predisposed to develop apps that leverage consumers’ interactions across media. The expectations are certainly already in place. Apps are increasingly becoming the portal through which video content is available – 62% of mobile viewers say they use an app for viewing. TV network apps may offer network-wide full-episode content, just a few shows, or tiered models where pay TV subscribers get greater access to content than the general public. And if you don’t subscribe to these, then alternative video subscription services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are there to close the gap.

Apps can also take on a complementary function as the gateway to the television set itself. Pay TV services offer modern remote control apps that bypass the antiquated interface typically found on set-top boxes. And a number of newer TV sets are now Internet-friendly, enabling the use of apps resident on the TV or on a connected device.

The big question that this new role raises is: how will networks pay for content that is driven by digital use, taking into account the ways that apps change media consumption? There are a number of possible business models: ad supported, sponsored or via subscription, and the networks have to choose the model with the best fit for their structure.

Our Internet measure indicates that apps engender a more directed approach to finding content – mobile web users report almost half as much undefined “other” Internet time as PC web users.  This means less open-ended surfing and serendipity. As such, it will become harder to drive sampling from people who don’t use your particular app. Content providers will need to work harder to reach their consumers, channeling their resources and focusing their attention on customer touchpoints in a way that is well known in more traditional marketing approaches.

As we’ve seen in the past, the future is prone to disruption. For media stakeholders, it’s a tough proposition to predict what the disruptors will be and where they will come from. Research partners like GfK should help stakeholders take a long term view of the shifts in consumer behaviors and expectations across all media, using a roadmap of future media evolution to stay a step ahead of change.

Only then can our great expectations lead to truly the best of times …

For more information please contact David Tice, Senior Vice President of GfK’s Media & Entertainment team, at david.tice@gfk.com.