Europeans prefer web to print media


9 Oct 2006

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Europeans now spend more time online than reading newspapers and magazines, the latest Jupiter Research report on media consumption claims.

According to the report, Europeans now spend an average of four hours per week online, compared with just two hours in 2003. Time spent on newspapers and magazines is just three hours.

This trend has helped to drive an increase in overall media consumption to 19 hours per week, up from 15 hours in 2003.

TV continues to dominate media consumption with Europeans spending three times as much time watching TV as going online.

“The fact that internet consumption has passed print consumption is an important landmark for the establishment of the internet in the European media mix,” says Mark Mulligan, vice-president and research director at JupiterResearch.

“This shift in the balance of power will increasingly shape content distribution strategies, advertising spend allocation and communication strategies in the European arena,” Mulligan said.

European media consumption trends are underpinned by two key factors: age and broadband access. Younger consumers exhibit a propensity to consume media online whereas older consumers lean more towards traditional print media.

The strong growth of broadband has been key in shaping the media consumption landscape: broadband users spend more than three times as many hours a week online than dial-up users.

The impact of broadband is also seen at a country level: France, which has the highest rates of broadband household access, also registers the highest average hours spent online whereas Germany ranks lowest on both metrics.

Germany does, however, have the highest weekly TV consumption time at 14 hours due to widespread availability of free-to-air multi-channel TV. The lowest consumption rate can be found in Italy, Spain and Sweden.

While the research didn’t touch on Ireland, lead analyst Mark Mulligan told siliconrepublic.com that the balance of European media consumption is shifting inexorably from traditional print publications to online media. “If you are in a newspaper or magazine business it is probably already apparent to you that your audience is aging.

“There is a very clear digital divide. Younger consumers are not heavy print readers and older consumers are not heavy internet users. However, there is a rising trend of ‘silver surfers’ that will see a shift in older readers towards the internet. I’m not seeing a parallel shift from younger people towards newspapers. There is no significant trend that suggests that the print audience will pick up younger readers.”

“One thing we can be sure of is that there’s a significant risk for newspapers,” commented Benjamin Lehmann, an analyst covering European content and programming for Jupiter Research. He pointed out that heavy internet use is concentrated among the younger segment of under-25s, who spend an average of six hours per week online. Those aged 65 plus – who tend to be larger consumers of print media – spend just an hour per week on the internet. “The risk that exists is that younger segments won’t mature in the same way into heavy consumers of print media,” Lehmann told siliconrepublic.com.

Mulligan said that there are major challenges facing the traditional print industry. “Papers face fierce competition from non-traditional news sources such as RSS news feeds and other forms of rich media content. It is a challenging time for newspapers.”

Despite teenagers’ general preference for the web over TV, Mulligan believes that the TV business is in a much stronger defensive position than newspapers and magazines. “You are seeing the continued proliferation of multi-channel TV services as well as new technology enhancements in the form of recordable DVD, flat-screen TV and high-definition TV. There’s a lot happening to make TV a much better experience.”

Lehmann noted that although average internet use has doubled in the past three years, the level of ad spending hasn’t risen accordingly and won’t do so in the near term. By 2011 JupiterResearch has forecast that just 8pc of total advertising revenue will be spent on the internet.

By John Kennedy