Media research doesn't tell whole story
Despite recent reports suggesting that internet use has plateaued, TV viewing has dropped and mobile TV has been overhyped, industry experts remain upbeat. Andrew McCormick discovers why.
Jupiter Research is set to unveil figures that, it claims, show the amount of time consumers spend on the internet has levelled out, as revealed in last week's Media Week (22-29 May, page 14).
But this apparent bad news for the digital industry does not necessarily translate into good news for other media: at first glance, last week's findings from the IPA's Trends in Television report suggest that TV viewing has also fallen, for the fourth year in a row, and first-quarter figures are the lowest for 10 years.
Meanwhile, yet more figures, this time from Continental Research, suggest mobile TV has been overhyped and will be viewed by only 6% of the UK's adult population by 2010.
Such statements should have the media industry sobbing into its spreadsheets, but the experts remain upbeat.
Guy Phillipson, chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau, says: "Broadband penetration is high, so time online levelling out is not unexpected. Perhaps this levelling out will mean that it will take less time for the share of spend for online - 11.4% in 2006 - to catch up with its share of media consumption, which is around a quarter of our average media time."
In a similar vein, the television industry is still positive. Tess Alps, chief executive of industry body Thinkbox, has had to deal with falling viewer numbers before and, like other experts, she queries the validity of these figures.
"What the IPA fails to show is what is happening to commercial TV viewing," she says. "This is the only thing that matters to advertisers and that is a picture of consistent growth.
"Thinkbox has suggested to the IPA that it changes its report to separate out commercial TV from the BBC, but it persists in separating terrestrial analogue from digital. It's not nearly as relevant as our suggested segmentation."
Alps prefers to cite joint research by Barb and technology company Infosys that focuses on the commercial sector. The latest data predicts that the commercial share of TV viewing will, in fact, increase by 10% by 2012.
Likewise, the IAB, unsurprisingly, believes that the success of the internet as a medium should be measured by its own figures, audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which claim that, as a result of a 41.2% rise in internet advertising, "the upward momentum of the internet reflects a new era in marketing communication and consumer behaviour".
The time the average person spends watching TV every day, 3.85 hours, is still a huge chunk of media time. Similarly, the internet has become a part of people's everyday habits and, while some find it surprising that time spent on the internet is levelling off, growth could never be permanently exponential.
Overall, the anecdotal evidence shows that, thanks to diversification, media consumption is growing at an unprecedented rate.
Some figures may suggest doom and gloom - but for TV and online in particular, there is still plenty to be upbeat about.
This article was first published on Media Week
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