Today’s state of content feels a little like the California Gold Rush of the 1840s and 50s. The discovery of gold drove 300,000 people by land and sea to the west coast – all in search of striking their way to a better life. The population of the San Francisco area grew from 800 to 100,000 over a six-year period. In total, $2 billion worth of precious metals were extracted from the region during the Gold Rush.
All good things must come to an end, and eventually, the gold supply had almost all been unearthed. Thousands reached sunny California only to find overcrowded mining camps and just trace amounts of gold. Disillusioned gold seekers returned home with little to show for their time.
Fast forward to today and we have a new version of the Gold Rush: consumer attention.
The rise of smartphones has increased our appetites for consuming content to levels larger than a $9.99 Chinese buffet on a Saturday evening. But like a buffet, there’s more choice than we have room to consume in one sitting. Nielsen recently published a new study that shows U.S. adults are spending an average of 11 hours per day interacting with media (smartphone, TV, computer, radio). 11 HOURS!
It’s no wonder why every brand from GE to Applebee’s is increasing resources and budgets to fuel the content machine.
To pull back the curtain on my personal daily consumption habits…
Wake up: scroll through Instagram and Twitter to see what groundbreaking content I missed while I was asleep
Shower: NO CONTENT
Getting ready: listen to NPR via our Amazon Echo
Commute to work: Grab my headphones and listen to a podcast or music on my walk/subway ride until I get to my desk
Work: Toggle between two screens and occasionally check my phone in between meetings and in the bathroom (don't judge - you know you're doing the same)
Commute to the gym: Grab my headphones and listen to a podcast or music on my walk/subway ride until I get to the gym
Gym: Keep the headphones plugged in and listen to music
Commute home: Continuing to listen to music
Home / Cool Down / Dinner: Podcast, music or TV in the background
Shower: NO CONTENT (yes, I often shower twice per day, sorry for wasting water)
Relax: TV while occasionally scrolling through Twitter and Instagram
Bed: TV on the in the background and one last scroll on my phone for no particularly good reason
That’s the first time that I’ve broken down my day like this, and it’s honestly sickening… but I know I’m not in the minority. There’s literally not a single minute more of content I can consume in my day, and I’m already fed up with my addiction.
If you’re a brand trying to reach a modern consumer like me, you probably have the best chance of reaching me through my phone. For those that have found success, you successfully broke through the noise using your paid, owned, earned and shared channels to get my attention -- capitalizing on my need to scratch the itch and use my phone as an extension of my body.
But, can this pattern really continue? Maybe I’m more optimistic than the next person, but I think we’re going to start having more moments of realization about the need to change our habits. The last I checked, we can’t expand a day past 24 hours, so where do we go from here? If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on:
Podcasts (because we can’t always stare at our screens)
Tools to help consumers clean up their feeds and find the most valuable content
When the technology evolves to the point where we can ditch the form factor of a physical phone (Google Glass failed...I know...I know. It failed because it made you look like a pompous asshole. I’m thinking more a connected contact lens that’s invisible to the passerby on the street)
Self-driving cars to squeeze more screen time out of the day
The gold supply isn’t running out, but it will start to get pretty damn scarce and expensive.