Pour le rapport « Le consommateur de médias exclusivement numériques », j’avais rédigé une conclusion qui a été un peu amputée pour la publication, pour cause « d’éditorialisation ». Un peu de nébulosité aussi. C’est vrai, mais je l’aimais bien quand même. La voici, dans sa version originale anglaise:
In 1913, Wolfgang Riepl, a German journalist and newspaper editor, formulated a hypothesis about media that he called « a fundamental law of the development of communication systems“.
Riepl’s law, as it is known today, posits that new types of media never replace the existing modes of media and their usage patterns. Instead, a convergence takes place in their field, providing different application for these older forms.
This hypothesis is being used again today, especially by traditional media executives, and their argument goes like this: so far, no new medium has killed an old one. The radio did not eliminate recorded music, TV didn’t eliminate radio or movies, online interactive media didn’t eliminate radio, television or film.
Indeed, traditional means of consuming media are still dominating the Canadian media landscape and will for a long time still. 85 percent of Canadian households are still subscribing to a broadcasting distribution service; over-the-air radio yearly revenue keeps growing despite the success of streaming services like Spotify; Canadians bought almost 18 million CDs in 2014, which is 60 percent of total albums sold (although down from the peak in 2001.)
But these numbers are potentially misleading. Cable subscriptions have been decreasing for the last two years, commercial radio revenues are growing more modestly than in the past, recorded music sales, in any format, have collapsed, some say that print media are doomed…
Yet, what our conversations with the panellists reveal is that some consumers are not simply abandoning traditional platforms and turning towards digital content, they actually seem to know no other way to consume content but on digital platforms. For them, a change in media consumption would actually be to watch cable television, listen to FM radio or read a printed newspaper or magazine. Digital-onlys may represent a new species of consumers that view their media habits as completely normal and organic. Indeed, some are not even aware they belong to this digital group.
In the same way that mass communication was born with the printing press, the internet is bringing about more than a simple disruption of the traditional media business models. Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor and author, puts it this way in his 2011 book “Public Parts”: “The changes brought on by the internet today appear huge in the mirror, but we are still early in this revolution.”
The participants of our focus groups told us how important it was for them to be able to access content without intermediaries telling them what, when and how they could access it. This sentiment was the foundation of their “digital-only” lifestyle.
Alexis Madrigal, contributing editor for The Atlantic, has an interesting explanation for this: “We’re creating a world that seamlessly, effortlessly shapes itself to human desire. It’s no longer cutting through a mountain to prove we dominate nature; now, it’s satisfying each impulse in the physical world with the ease and speed of digital tools. The shortest way to explain what Uber means: hit a button and something happens in the world (that makes life easier for you).”
Whereas, for past generations consuming media meant sitting in front of a screen and waiting passively for content to be pushed to them, or holding pieces of paper and deciphering the meaning of the letters printed on it, today’s digital-onlys cannot imagine a world where they wouldn’t have access to the button that makes something happen in the world.
This study only paints a preliminary portrait of this group, but it demonstrates that there is still much to learn from them. Since these viewing habits can serve as a leading indicator of the future of media consumption, further analysis would provide valuable insight on how to adapt to the changing media landscape.
Furthermore, it would be interesting, while doing this analysis, to consider changing media consumption habits across generations. Measuring the population of over-25 migrants who have already embraced digital media as their primary source for content could bring about some surprising discoveries.
Television opened the world to past generations, but a world controlled, among other things, by regulation and copyright laws. Nowadays, the “button that makes something happen in the world” is shaping the global media environment. In a publication from its ConsumerLab, telecommunication giant Ericsson tells us that “All around the world, internet users are increasingly sharing one culture. (…) Since 2011, we have been following 9 countries to observe media behaviors and attitudes. In 2011, 83 percent were watching broadcast TV more than several times a week, with only 61 percent viewing streamed content on demand. However, this behavior is now changing. Viewers are shifting towards easy-to-use, on-demand services that allow cross-platform access to video content. Regardless of whether you watch your favorite show in the US, China or Spain, the future is streaming.”
The future is streaming: an appropriate image, coherent with the logic of flow the internet has instilled in our lives. The authors of “L’Âge de la multitude” have articulated it this way: “Everything is about flow these days. Newspapers work with an ever-changing flow of readers and people online juggle around with the flow of information. […] In this digital economy, individuals are in perpetual motion, always moving forward at a faster pace as they’re offered simpler, more powerful devices to work with.”
Some forms of media could very well be engulfed in this future stream. So, is Riepl’s Law completely wrong?
Well, consider this: in 2010, former MIT visionary Nicholas Negroponte announced the death of printed books, the first form of mass media, for 2015.
But, in 2013, 92 percent of 18-29 year-old read in print in the US, says Deloitte’s TMT Predictions 2015. In 2015, predicts Deloitte, printed books will represent more than 80 percent of all book sales worldwide.
But then again, books are a different kind of media beast, with their more than 500 hundred years of existence. As Jeff Jarvis puts it in his book: “We ain’t seen nothing yet”.
Nicholas Negroponte: The Physical Book Is Dead In 5 Years, TechCrunch, August 6, 2010. Online : http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/06/physical-book-dead/