Mobile plus internet is the combination that will keep on giving for content consumers all over the world. Learners too, of course, both those natively interconnected as well as the growing base of adults who become comfortable with the idea of longlife learning.
But you will be missing out on a lot of critical developments if you don’t sail the currents, nor dive into the depths. Internet is the ocean and devices (phones, tablets, gadgets, fridges and all the rate of new IoT devices impossible to make sense of by any one person) are the aqualung.
So what’s happening online in 2020? Consulting firm Activate is sharing its “Technology & Media Outlook 2020.” A collection of 16 statistical trends, each one slated to influence classrooms and learning practices at varying magnitudes.
A series of tubes worth 2 trillion dollars
Right now, the internet is a $2 trillion business worldwide. By “the internet” we mean media consumption: Publishing, video, gaming, music, ebooks and all other forms of content for education or entertainment purposes. Money is made by direct sales of virtual products, licenses and subscriptions (Paid content); advertising, and access to the internet itself.
Within the next couple of years, advertising will grow more than $100 billion, growing the most among the categories. Paid content is expected to add $52 billion by 2023, a yearly growth of 1.8%
The Activate report focuses on content business models, to reveal that 3 out of every 4 dollars going to paid content follow a subscription approach, the other 1 goes to single transaction. The disparity will only grow larger in favor of subscriptions.
In the U.S., video streaming is already a billion dollar business. Other digital subscriptions excluding audio are nearing the $300 million mark, and gaming gets $187 millon out of the pie.
A day in internet hours
How does this fit into the day of the average person? In a way, it does not. Aggregating all the ways in which people use their time adds up to a 31 and a half hour days. This simply means that multitasking is officially embedded into our culture. Would this imply the internet is making our lives 7 hours longer each day?
The average user spends 12 hours online. The report does not include education, which in the internet-free case might fall into the 7 hours and 22 minutes people devote to non-work, non-sleeping activities. Elearning is sorely missing as well, perhaps sneaking into the online media consumption schedule:
Video (4 hours 57 minutes)
Messaging and social media (1:08)
Other (browsing, searching, shopping, learning? 2:05)
By 2023 not much change is expected. Slight uptakes of even more video and audio streaming, gaming and social media are par for the course.
There are a few warnings to consider. First of all, most producers of content online realize there are “Super Users,” who make up for disproportionate shares of consumption of media. To a lesser degree, some multitask more than others, and as a result the actual reach of individual users by online media is much smaller.
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Learning journeys and your bottom line
Focusing on valuable niches is a sensible advice as always. But which behaviors are more desirable, and which ones are more reasonable to aim for from an ROI on learning point of view? The report lists four. How many minutes out of an hour on effort would you invest on each?
Up to a quarter of the population spends either twice (in the case of video streaming) or as much as 12 times (audio) the money the rest does. Naturally, they are a highly coveted demographic with much higher acquisition costs and less available time. An argument could be made here about the remaining 77%: The have not been successfully onboarded onto the digital content marketplace.
There is a clear and reasonable link between Super Users and this group. They are more savvy and affluent. And of course, they are more educated. They would not need basic educational solutions, but they would definitely want more groundbreaking learning experiences.
Lower-income learners can have significantly smaller budgets for products they need, often desperately more. The challenge is to provide them with effective education solutions, the only type of spending that would lead to a higher available future budget for more engaging online experiences, including more learning.
This group makes sure as many of their peers know what they're on at a given time. They play a key social role as recommenders (of the human, not the Artificial kind) of services and experiences. They particularly enjoy live events, online or at their local arena, and never go by themselves. They are vocal on social media, sharing 2.3 times as much as the rest of us. Given their outsized follower base, just a few of them is enough to make or break a business.
Learners who are sharers stand to benefit companies who excel at providing evidence of educational accomplishment, and make it easier to share and kick start online conversations. This underscores the importance of socially savvy online portfolios and tokens of evidence, digital badges being the most noteworthy.
They're a high-maintenance bunch, but once you've locked them in you can expect them to remain as customers for the long haul, and be more responsive to loyalty programs, rewards and pampering that makes them feel part of an exclusive club. They are the most open for upselling and repeat purchases. Education consumers, especially on post-graduate, specialized programs, would fall squarely on this segment.
What makes these people the subject of enduring affection? Reputation and distinctiveness, which in our age of online influencers turns a spotlight upon celebrities. This group could spend up to five times the budget of an average person as long as the product has a beloved celebrity attached to it.
They will try their best to suck Netflix, Spotify and Google Stadia dry. They are highly engaged and aware of your brand. But beware: While they do correlate with the other groups including the "Super Users," it can be easy to mistake them for users who would spend more or help you promote your learning with devotion.
2020 social media recap
We all spend more time on more social media sites and apps, except Facebook which shows decline in users, time spent and engagement. But don't cry for Zuck yet: The platform still clocks 2.4 billion users, 800 more than next in line WhatsApp. Use time is also dominated by Messenger and Instagram, all Facebook properties. The company continues to report record profits. (Activate errs by not considering YouTube a social network.)
Social-heavy strategists should pay attention to TikTok, WeChat, Twitch, Reddit, Discord, LINE and Viber. Or should have a while ago. In reality the social media ecosystem has dozens of players, many of which with devoted "Super Users" and the same concentration effects. Each one has its own "royalty" of influencers amassing the bulk of the following.
In a way, Facebook has failed as the one-stop shop, which has given way to specialized and subject matter-savvy networks. LinkedIn is a notable example in a field where few names stand out: StackOverflow, Wattpad, MyAnimeList, Strava. As they are all growing, it appears these niche social media can coexist, among other things because they bring different rules for the game and social dynamics.
If we shift gears a bit to measure sites in terms of total transaction value, then we uncover a hidden giant: Alibaba, whose ecommerce sites Taobao and Tmall almost triple the gross merchandise volume of Amazon, and account for nearly one of the $2.9 trillion in transacted value. Only one segment is bigger: The rest of the web. Online stores driving less than 1% of the volume add up to 40% of the commerce.