I just came across this infographic on the MIT Tech Review about the TV domination on the entertainment media landscape in the US.
There are 2 big numbers to support this :
- First, the fact that Americans are spending 5 times more time in front of their TV than on internet.
- Second, the fact that the average daily TV viewing in US has increased 18% since 1991
Well that’s actually not such news… Some other media studies already proved the point a couple of times (even generalizing it worldwide). But it got me thinking about this TV addiction we seem to have, an addiction which carries on even though we’ve never had so much different ways to entertain ourselves than today.
To put it really simply, i think we like TV a lot because it’s kind of effortless. It’s easy. You just have to turn on your TV set and content and, dare i say, entertainment, just come straight to you. And even though nowadays connected TVs ask you to do a little bit more than turning it on (which is completely wrong in my mind), television has been constructed, and is seen by people, as a really passive way to consume content. And indeed, the age of TV was the age of the “passive consumer”.
Then came the internet, and the age of the “active user”. Indeed, if you want something on the internet, you have to go get it, clicking links and web-surfing in the quest for your personal entertainment. No more passiveness, the consumer is now a user, and he is an active one. At least, it used to be like that …
Because, the fact is, there is a lot of stuff on the internet, like a lot of stuff, and the more stuff there is the more tricky it is for our mind to choose where to go and what to look for (you can check “the paradox of choice” to get to know a bit more about that). So we started to invent stuff that would let us minimize choices, stuff that will allow content to come to us, once again, as the TV did/does, and not the opposite. I think of course about content feeds, would it be on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or whatever is your source of internet entertainment… And so is born the age of “the passive user”.
I think this is something we should really take into account when thinking about digital media. People actually rather be passive than active. It’s just easier for them. And the currently increasing complexity of our environment is definitely one of the key force that will push people to stay in this passive state. In 3 words, the passive user is here to stay.
Think about that the next time you’ll design a mass participation campaign…