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Slight decline in global media time signals the end of ‘digital hypergrowth’

Daily time spent with both traditional and digital media is in a slight decline worldwide, marking an end to the rapid digital acceleration of the past few years, according to the 13th edition of our Global Media Intelligence Report, which features insights from a GWI survey of media and device usage across 47 countries.

“These aren’t fundamental drops,” Jason Mander, GWI’s chief research officer, said on a recent episode of the “Behind the Numbers” podcast. Waning media engagement marks a shift in the way consumers are responding to their social and economic environments—and a small departure from the idea that they are more plugged in than ever.

Digital hypergrowth is likely over throughout the world

  • In the US, only three of the 11 media formats included in the report saw an increase in time spent among internet users from H1 2022 to H1 2023. These included mobile (up 8 minutes), social and messaging (up 4 minutes), and music streaming (up 2 minutes).
  • In Canada and the UK, mobile was the only media format that gained time spent, up 6 minutes and 4 minutes, respectively.
  • Time spent with all media formats in other major markets—including Asia-Pacific (including India and Hong Kong), Southeast Asia (including the Philippines and Thailand), Western Europe (including Italy and Spain), and Latin America (including Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico)—have either remained the same or declined YoY.

“There’s no need for panic,” Mander said. “Naturally, as the world has gotten back to what you might call ‘normal,’ there’s a little bit less time being spent on [media].”

Cost of living is playing a role

  • With US inflation rising higher than expected in September, consumers are increasingly cautious with their spending.
  • The slowdown in discretionary spending may lead to cutbacks on discretionary expenses such as entertainment subscriptions, Mander said.

Post-pandemic correction

  • After a few years of surging time spent on digital media and connected devices, “stability” will emerge as a theme in 2023, per Mander.
  • “The trends you would expect to continue are largely continuing, and the declines that you might expect are carrying on,” he said.
  • Smartphone ownership and usage, for example, will continue to be more dominant around the world, as expected, while desktops and laptops are steadily declining, Mander said.

Social media burnout

  • “Anecdotally, a lot of people I speak with feel like they’re overloaded with social media and are basically pulling back from, if not canceling, accounts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram,” our analyst Paul Verna said.
  • Social media users are feeling the fatigue, and it’s triggered a move to direct messaging, closed communities, group chats, and private accounts, according to Instagram head Adam Mosseri.

“We’re seeing a widespread behavior change,” Mander said. Although not a huge amount, “I think that people are actually genuinely just withdrawing a little bit.”

Listen to the full episode.

This was originally featured in the eMarketer Daily newsletter. For more marketing insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.