This year, as in years past, Bain & Company has conducted a global survey measuring how people consume culture in the form of digital media—video, music, e-books and video games. By surveying more than 6,000 consumers in Europe, the US and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, we learned about changing preferences for how they watch, listen, read and play.
The survey results highlighted three key trends in 2013:
- The rise of individual and social consumption driven by smartphones and tablets
- The end of content scarcity as digital distribution achieves ubiquity
- A shift away from ownership enabled by "always-on" networks
These changes occur against a backdrop of the persistent culture clash between the creative and digital worlds. Last year we noted the innovative power of digital platforms over the past seven years: iTunes is synonymous with music downloads, YouTube with streaming video, Kindle with e-books. But the rise of giants creates unease. Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook make headlines as much for the business, regulatory and cultural controversies they generate as for the new behaviors they have fostered.
The rise of digital platforms also highlights the evolving role of curation, as consumers look for better ways to find the culture they want the most. As power shifts to consumers—who can program their own content using powerful technology and simple interfaces—curation moves out of the hands of professionals and into communities, platforms and algorithms. This creates a real danger of a “tyranny of demand,” as indicated by the prevalence of franchises over original creation in increasingly risk-averse industries. Nevertheless, media players that can offer the right content—that is, not only what consumers want today, but what will surprise them tomorrow—are likely to prevail.
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