In recent years, we have witnessed a remarkable transformation in content consumption, mainly driven by the internet and new technologies.
However, it is important to recognise that traditional media still do not fully acknowledge that younger generations have little or no interest in consuming television in a traditional way. They have embraced digital channels and platforms as their main source of entertainment. In fact, according to an Ofcom media regulator report, viewers aged between 16 and 24 spend just 53 minutes a day on average watching traditional broadcast TV – a fall of two-thirds over the last decade – seven times less than those aged 65 and over. Those aged 65+ still spend about a third of their waking day, almost six hours, watching broadcast TV – slightly higher than a decade ago.
An even larger portion of the young generation’s attention is devoted to free video platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Twitch. Platforms that deliver a content experience that is fundamentally different from traditional media, as they rely heavily on user-generated content and foster a more interactive and relationship-based engagement model with their audience, turning anonymous viewers into recognised users.
In this sense, it is essential to understand how different generations adopt or resist these technological transformations. To adapt content to younger audiences, it is necessary to use the channels and media that they prefer and use on a regular basis. This means taking advantage of new platforms, social media and other digital tools to effectively reach this audience. This approach that both models can coexist is key to understanding what will develop in the industry in the coming years.
Adapting content to different platforms
To understand the differences between OTT and traditional broadcast media, it is essential to analyse the different consumption patterns across different generations. Moreover, it is crucial to adapt content to various platforms and cater to different generations. When discussing platforms such as TikTok or Instagram, most people associate them with a predominantly young audience, usually under the age of 40, although there are exceptions. The opposite is true for traditional channels such as radio and television.
The challenge for mainstream broadcasters lies in capturing the attention of both audiences, that is, how to attract younger generations and adjust content and strategies to align with their favourite platforms and preferences. In the context of new technologies, this has changed completely, and for many broadcasters, finding engagement with younger generations remains a persistent problem. Understanding the differences between internet-based media and traditional broadcast media involves analysing different generational consumption patterns.
Interacting with the audience
If we look at the content consumed by younger audiences on their favourite platforms, there is a fundamental difference in the relationship model with the audience. While traditional broadcast sees the audience as unknown and passive viewers, successful online media platforms strive to establish a relationship with their audience making them a part of the show, turning viewers into users and contributors. This is achieved through interactions and feedback from the platform itself (comments, likes, shares, etc.) and even encourages the users to contribute with new content or take on a role as co-creator by adding commentary audio and reaction video. The viewer has an active role in this two-way relationship and is not just another member of the audience but expects to be able to participate, have their opinion and influence the content. When this happens, it is more likely that the content will continue to be consumed and shared, thus creating a relationship between the creator and the audience, with mutual feedback.
In traditional media, however, interaction with the viewer is mainly limited to surveys or audience studies, which provide general information but do not allow for direct and immediate participation. The relationship between the media and the viewer is one-way, with viewers serving as passive receivers of content, with no option to express their opinion or exert influence.
Customisation of platforms
In traditional media, we are used to linear and uniform programming, where content is produced and curated to fit a wide audience and broadcast at set times. A model where the sender - the broadcaster, controls and decides what, when and how the experience should unfold, assuming that the viewers pay their full attention to the TV. In contrast, internet-based platforms and digital channels allow users to create their own personalised programming. On a PC, especially when using multiple screens in a “game rig” setup, users can even control the rendering and display of the content. In this new world, getting full exclusive attention is increasingly rare though. Consuming media is something that often occurs simultaneously with other activities like playing games or consuming multiple media in parallel.
Fighting to capture and sustain the viewers’ attention for as long as possible, digital media use algorithms and data analytics to understand viewer interests, preferences and behaviours. Platforms such as TikTok, Twitch and Instagram are excellent examples of how personalisation has become a huge part of the digital experience and an important tool to keep attention from a user who has all the alternatives on the internet just one click away.
But there is a flip side to these algorithms and personalisation as it tends to lead to greater fragmentation of audiences and content. While traditional media seek to innovate and appeal to a broad audience, digital platforms allow viewers to immerse themselves in specific communities and niches. However, this personalisation also has a dark side. By receiving personalised content tailored to our preferences, we can fall into a ‘filter bubble’ that reinforces our existing beliefs and limits exposure to different points of view.
Ultimately, traditional media face the challenge of adapting their content to the different platforms used by younger audiences, encouraging audience interaction and balancing personalisation with exposure to diverse viewpoints. This includes the actual production and curation of content, making it fit better into the expectations of a younger generation who prefers a shorter, faster and in-parallel media consumption style. Understanding and adapting to these changes is critical to success in today’s media environment. Adopting personalisation and interactivity means establishing a model that includes the viewer as a user, while at the same time honouring the purpose of traditional media and avoiding contributing to the creation of filter bubbles. One thing is certain: there is no one-size-fits-all formula, but it will be necessary to strike a balance between existing traditional models and the new digital platforms, while also exploring the potential for new innovative approaches.