Fresh eyes

10 things businesses should know about modern media consumption

Two people sat on decking with phones and a beach behind them
Andrew Taylor Senior PR & Comms Manager

Written by Andrew Taylor,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

Ofcom’s annual report into Adults’ media use and attitudes is known to be THE authority on how people in the UK are consuming media.

If your business or organisation is looking for answers on how best to reach your target audiences, then this is one of the places to look.

To save you reading the full 174-page report, here’s 10 findings I found most interesting and how they might impact your marketing efforts. The report compares media use and attitudes in 2016 compared to 2015.

1. Older people are becoming more active on social media

Yep, forget everything you’ve ever said about older people not being online.

While use of smartphones by the over 65s is still lower than for other age groups, it increased sharply between 2015 and 2016. In fact, the 65-74 (39% vs 28%) and over 75s (15% vs 8%) are the only two demographic groups that saw smartphone use increase.

41% of internet users over the age of 75 now have a social media profile or account, compared to 19% in 2015. Meanwhile, the over 55s consume 6.5 hours of video on YouTube each month.

Our analysis: While traditional media may still be one of the most useful ways of targeting older audiences, it’s worth considering how you can reach these audiences online too. In other words, do the research before writing off digital media.

2. The decline of the desktop continues

Adults are now less likely to go online via computers (62% vs 71% in 2015) and are now more likely to use smartphones (66%) than computers to go online. In 2016, mobile search actually overtook desktop search.

Using tablets to go online has increased (49% vs 45% in 2015) as has the use of other streaming media players (9% vs 5%). Meanwhile, 8% of adults now use a smartphone only to go online, up from 5% the year before.

Our analysis: These stats back up the need for businesses to provide a strong online experience and to have ‘mobile-first’ mentality. At the very least, your online presence has to be mobile-responsive.

3. People are becoming more comfortable paying for things using their smartphone

Four in ten smartphone users have used their phone as a ticket or boarding pass or to gain entry to an event (41% vs 33% in 2016) and nearly three in ten (28%) have used their phone for contactless payments (20% in 2015).

4. People are using a broader range of social media…

While Facebook is still the dominant player (95% of social media users have a Facebook profile) fewer social media users now only have a Facebook account. Compared to 2015, What’sApp (45% vs 28%), Instagram (31% vs 22%) YouTube (30% vs 22%), Snapchat (23% vs 12%), Google+ (16% vs 11%) and Pinterest (12% vs 7%) have all seen growth in use.

5. …But trust in social media generally is falling

As in 2015, adults are more likely to disagree overall (50%) than they are to agree (23%) with the statement that they trust what they read and see on social media. However, compared to 2015 they are more likely to strongly disagree (25% vs 18%) with this statement.

Two in three internet users (67%) say they validate the accuracy of the factual information they find online by making at least one of six checks they could use to judge the accuracy of information online.

Our analysis: Online content shared on social media has to be genuine, unique and authoritative if it’s to be trusted by your audiences.

6. People are opting to communicate in closed groups

While you may not need an official report to tell you the popularity of instant messaging services like What’sApp and Facebook Messenger is growing, the stats from the Ofcom report lay bare the increasing desire to have the ability to keep conversations private.

There’s been an increase from 53% to 57% of people using instant messaging services, but the frequency at which they are being used is growing with 43% saying they had used an instant messaging service in the past week, compared to 41% in 2015.

7. ‘Trolling’ is preventing many people from engaging on social media

Just over four in ten (44%) of social media users agree that they are put off from posting content because of the potential for abusive comments or responses. Women are more likely than men to agree with this statement (49% vs 38%).

Our analysis: Businesses using social media may want to consider how they can help users engage with their brand without putting them at risk of online abuse.

8. Search engines still rule the roost when it comes to finding information online

In the Ofcom study, internet users were prompted with a list of eight possible sources they might use for looking for information online. Search engines are the only source used by a majority (97%) of internet users. Wikipedia (41%), user review websites like TripAdvisor and Trust Pilot (40%), the BBC website (40%) and government websites (37%) were other sources of information online.

Eight in ten users (80%) who go online to look for information for their leisure time, such as live music and cinema tickets, went to search engines first.

Our analysis: The need to invest in a search strategy is therefore essential for many businesses looking to acquire new customers. SEO is far from dead.

9. Privacy is becoming more of a concern, but not for the youngest users

Around seven in ten social media users who post photos, or ‘tag’ people, and 68% of social media users who post comments, or ‘check-in’ at locations, say they always or sometimes consider any privacy or data security implications of doing this. For each of these activities, users aged 16-24 are less likely than average to say they always consider the security implications (26% vs. 36%).

Our analysis: With the pending data protection laws and other changes being heralded in by GDPR, businesses will need to carefully consider how they handle customer data to reduce reputational risk. Social media competitions in particular are an area where businesses need to ensure they have strong privacy policies in place.

10. Family and friend recommendations are most important

Half of viewers (49%) of on-demand content say they select content to watch based on recommendations from friends and family and three in five (62%) who use video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo say they discover things to watch on these sites based on recommendations from family and friends.

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