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MBPT Spotlight: A Crash Course For Marketers: 12 Trends Shaping Today’s Content Landscape

In today’s media landscape, everything old is new again, while everything new gets old pretty quickly. Throughout the many qualitative and quantitative research projects we conduct at Open Mind Strategy, we see modern media consumers exhibiting a range of new and fast-evolving behaviors, while also demonstrating that certain wants and needs are perpetual.

We’re often asked what we see in the marketplace. The following is a high-level overview of twelve trends shaping today’s content landscape, from scripted TV to news content, and the passion points that are driving consumer and brand connectivity, communication and convergence.

1) Screen Convergence

Modern media consumers—of almost all ages—connect to the things they care about via all screens. Increasingly, the way they want their content is less about the particular screen and more about what they want at that moment.

2) IWWIWWIWI (I want what I want when I want it)

People are time-shifting, on-demanding and streaming more than ever, and the younger they are the more likely they are to think that watching exactly what they want to watch exactly when they want to watch it is a God-given right.

3) Everything’s a New Release

Consumers can do more than simply pick between fresh daily choices for content; they can choose what to consume out of everything that has ever been made—whether in original form or newly curated—as long as it’s stored online. 

4)Crowd Viewing Live

Live event viewership is up across everything from sports to awards shows to TV events such as The Sound of Music. When almost everything is available digitally, whenever the consumer wants it, live events bring the consumer back to the real world and connect them with a community that is watching the same thing at the same time—a rare thing in the current environment. Live event viewing fulfills nostalgic desires for true shared experience and for the satisfying shock and surprise that comes with “being there when it happened.”

5)Cutting the Cord, Not the Content

With practically all content available online (and often free), there is an upward trend of consumers getting rid of cable service for their televisions, and even getting rid of their TVs. But, to be clear, they are quick to point out that though they might not need TVs, they still need, and love, TV shows, and even acknowledge that this is a golden age for television content.

6)Collaborative Consumption 

Consumers form networks of “experts” among their friends and family, turning to one person for all their current event questions and another to hear about the latest in reality television. The sharing of each person’s “specialty” adds an element of collaboration to content appreciation.

7)Collaborative Content

A good deal of content that consumers view is not generated by professionals, but rather by other users and fans. On the non-professional front, consumers are often seeking out unique voices/perspectives they find both inspiring and personally relatable. This kind of content often drives them to respond/interact more readily themselves, and it shapes their expectations of the professional content that they consume—leading them to demand more authenticity, honesty and surprise.

8)Impressive Press

Journalism has become more than writing about current events (something that anyone can do in the blogosphere). People see journalists venturing into dangerous situations, and in some cases even losing their lives or being held hostage. Companies such as Vice Media are making journalism cool. Though the number of journalists is down overall, journalism is garnering more respect and buzz and triggering increased interest in following the journalist’s perspective. Expect more college students to seek journalism careers in the future.

9)Good Looking

Popularity of social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr indicate a strong preference for, and expectation of, visual stimulation at all times, especially among millennials and teens. Consumers want to see the “pin worthy” result pic for the recipe they are following, and get a virtual tour of the event space where they are planning their party or the hotel they plan to visit. Eye candy please! And infographics—people enjoy the understanding that comes from a quick visual.

10)Dark Reflections 

 Consumers have lived through some dark days in recent years (financially, environmentally, etc.), and  they seem to like to see that reflected, and for entertainment’s sake, even intensified, in their television content. These days the words “dark,” “complex,” “twisted” and even “disturbing” are often used as compliments, especially about scripted content.

11)Living Local 

Though the world is ever more globally connected, people want to know what is going on locally, and they also want to know what to do to feel like a local when they go somewhere else. “Local” content, from news to episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives still resonate. Consumers enjoy content that offers a true, authentic insider look at new places they’ve never seen, but they are also drawn (and at times even more so) to content featuring happenings or places right outside of their front door. Seeing familiar sights doesn’t bore them, instead it makes them feel in-the-know and tied to the action.

12)The Emergence of the Passion Economy

Consumers love “geeking out” on the things they love and going deep and surrounding themselves with the content to fuel these passions and develop greater expertise. They don’t just have hobbies, their passions are taking on the role of “side jobs” that are often more important to their self-definition than their day jobs. Among millennials, we hear that if you don’t have a passion—or several—you’re not a whole person.

Hafitz is CEO of Open Mind Strategy, LLC; Wright is senior VP, research and strategy at OMS. Together they have conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative research with young consumers around the world, and have broad experience developing audience insights for a wide range of consumer brands and entertainment/content companies. Clients include A+E Networks, AMC, Amazon, Clear Channel, Condé Nast, Gannett, Kao Brands, MTV, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks, Unilever,USA Todayand Yahoo.