Without a doubt, technology has changed the way people consume media. A future paperless society is not improbable given strong evidence from various studies showing news consumption rapidly shifting from print to online, which is especially true in developed countries where Internet penetration and smartphone and tablet ownership are high.
In the Philippines, where only a third of the population have Internet access, and with only four percent being smartphone owners, the figures may lead one to think that the scenario of a digital invasion is still far off.
Taking off from its whitepaper published last year, Omnicom Media Group partnered with Manila Bulletin to situate current print readership in a landscape of increasing digital penetration. Through focus group discussions and a survey among 15- to 35-year-old internet users from BC Metro Manila homes, the study looked at usage, interest, preference, and perception of both media (print and online) as well as reception of advertising and paid content.
The results of this OMG-MB research initiative aim to guide media stakeholders, particularly those in the print business, in charting their path in the digital world. Stop-gap measures are not enough for the print industry to survive in the long haul. An evolution in form and content is necessary for print media to stay in tune with readers’ changing needs and motivations.
Print Medium Still A ‘Go-To’ For Hard News
Print usage among the age group has become irregular and rarely an everyday habit. Only 20 percent read broadsheets on a daily basis, as opposed to 55 percent who use the Internet several times in a day. Pass-on readershipis evident as four out of 10 relied on someone else at home to buy the publication. Only 25 percent among working adults surveyed personally bought newspapers.
In looking for differences in how and why respondents used each medium, it was discovered that both media were found to be essential in the respondents’ lives. While newspapers were often read incidentally especially among the younger bracket, it was relied on for hard news. Internet received daily time allotment and could be accessed on the go, but the primary purpose for doing so was to meet entertainment and social needs.
Information Consumption Makes The Difference
Interest defines what information the respondents seek. At the core of their media consumption, it is personal interest that defines what information they sought, and this differed across age groups.
Dissecting level of interest in various topics and age group, almost nine out 10 found news and current events appealing. Teens, however, were the least concerned in this area compared with older respondents. Things that piqued them more were gadgets and devices (87 percent) and science and technology (83 percent).
This debunks a common misconception that entertainment and showbiz hold a special place in people’s interest sphere—at least not for this particular age set. In fact, this topic received the lowest score with less than 60 percent saying they were interested in getting information about it. This implies that while they thirst for “entertaining” content, this is not synonymous to consuming entertainment and showbiz per se.
Internet Satisfies Various Interests
On a scale of one to five, with five as the highest, respondents were asked to evaluate how well each medium met their interests. The Internet got a higher rating than print, signifying that it was more capable in satisfying their various pursuits. Hence, they were inclined to use the Internet more often because it could fulfill more of what they are looking for—as a direct consequence, more time spent using the Internet is less time devoted to print.
But cross-referencing for news and articles is common between media. Print is still the highly regarded medium for hard news. When asked about what media source they preferred to use to get information about certain topics, the greatest number of respondents attested that they referred to both print and Internet. This indicates that while the Internet might be perceived as the more dominant medium, print was still a highly regarded source. Moreover, sole preference for Internet was bleak in contrast to print when it comes to serious topics like news, economy, government and politics.
Ease Of Use Elevates Internet
“Ease of use” propels the Internet’s rating ahead of print in terms of preference. “Ease of use” was rated as the most important media characteristic. Other attributes crucial for more than nine out of 10 respondents were accuracy, being up-to-date, reliability and accessibility.
Ultimately, when asked which media information source they liked the most, a big majority (64 percent) said the Internet, while merely five percent preferred newspapers. The remaining 31 percent went to TV. No surprise since the top reasons for media source preference were accessibility, variety of topics and issues and ease of use.
Digital Future Forecast
A prediction arose of a future where the Internet dominates, and print is abandoned. This outlook came from a generation used to speed and who expects everything to be fast, information right at their fingertips. With rapid technological advances, future generations are likely to be more predisposed in zooming through the information expressway and have hardly the time to carve out and devote to reading printed news.
The current reality of our time is the increase in time-starved people needing quick information to save time and have enough of it to pursue other interests. Decline in readership is the implication to print—coupled with preference for “soft” information and the accessibility of the Internet to fulfill this need.
More and more, print’s old role of delivering breaking news is reduced in importance. Its role now is for those who have the luxury of time to “read” information in a leisurely pace over a cup of coffee or just to carve out a time in a day to rest—a focused activity born out of habit or escape.
The study also looked at online as a prospect for print migration in delivering news; focus was on online news readership (publication’s site), advertising and paid news content. Though hooked online, respondents had low awareness and low readership of newspaper websites. For some, entertaining oneself was prioritized over reading the news online. Among those who do read, their most preferred source was Yahoo (34 percent). There is contention, however, on what kind of news they read from this site given that it is not entirely devoted to hard news items. Further, reading news from Yahoo may just be happenstance considering it is the default homepage upon opening the browser.
Manila Bulletin readers were the ones most likely to visit the website counterpart of the newspaper (www.mb.com.ph), with 36 percent visiting the site at least once a day. Generally though, reading any newspaper website was sporadic.
Aside from sites like Yahoo, newspaper websites vie against TV networks’ news sites, which have better appeal because of their audiovisual content. Younger ones, in particular, specified that they would rather watch news videos than read “boring” articles from newspaper websites lifted (as is) from the printed version.
Advertisements, on the other hand, are better received on print than online. More attention, however, are paid to online ads. Respondents’ ad volume perception and consequent attention differed in broadsheets and the Internet. Close to eight out of 10 thought that broadsheets have just the right number of ads, compared with 54 percent who found the Internet having too many. But, the high ad volume seems to work well in the Internet as this translates to higher attention, due perhaps given the often obtrusive nature of their execution—but this is at a cost of getting into their nerves.
Respondents were cold to the idea of paying for online news content. When it comes to paid digital content, there was fair reception bordering on reluctance to pay. A common opinion that surfaced was that there are always free alternatives in the Internet so why pay when something else can be obtained without cost.
As technology becomes more available and more people born into it, print might be left out. But as long as there are remaining traditionalists, print will be here to stay. So, yes, the threat is emergent and not yet imminent. A word of caution, however: we also must be aware that the readers needs and preferences are changing—and at a rapid pace.
reposted from mb.com.ph