"What consumers want, what they really, really want ..."

This Monday the Olswang Convergence Consumer Survey 2007 was published. Conducted in conjunction with YouGov, this -- the third annual review -- sampled the attitudes of more than 1,500 18-to-55 year old British consumers and over 250 young-to-middling teenagers. Unsurprisingly it revealed that convergence continues to strengthen its grip on UK households, as a large number of homes have networks installed and the computer is becoming a true entertainment device.

Right: little Johnny turns the dials in an inreasingly frustrating search for iTunes ...
Every month, over 30% of respondents stream or download movies and TV content, while even greater numbers watch the range of free content that is already available on websites such as YouTube (63%) as well as streaming music (42%) and accessing podcasts (33%). Also unsurprisingly, people are much less willing to pay for audiovisual content, with free content being consumed by approximately three times as many people as paid content and those not yet consuming also being around three times more interested in free content.

The survey provides strong endorsement for those looking to make advertising, rather than payment, the business model for online content. While 84% of respondents said they found online adverts intrusive and 75% claim they actively try to avoid pop-up adverts, consumers are prepared to suppress this antipathy in their quest for free content, 46% of respondents being willing to put up with adverts if this means they can get TV or movies for free.

Following the trend of previous years, respondents are even more determined not to pay, getting frustrated at the lack of free content. This year, only 12% of respondents confessed that they either already pay or are willing to pay for downloaded or streamed movies or TV shows, while 49% want their content only if it's free. Among respondents who own up to unlawful downloading of film and TV content, the survey reveals a notable divergence: 20% of infringers actually pay, or are willing to pay, for content, suggesting that many are "content junkies" who just want whatever they can lay their hands on, whether they pay for it or not.

Left: the consumer's appetite for free content is not always fulfilled

The survey revealed a degree of confusion surrounding what content consumers are legally allowed to use on their home computers. Possibly due, at least in part, to a significant amount of national press coverage, 75% now recognise that downloading music from an unofficial file sharing site to a computer is unlawful, with similar results for downloading movies (73%) and TV shows (67%). However, once people have a disk in their hand, or a track on their computer, there is greater uncertainty: only 33% believe taking the content from a DVD and putting it onto a computer ("ripping") is unlawful. Once on the computer, only 26% believe copying that content to a portable device is illegal. These activities are currently mainly infringements in the UK at least in theory, although the Government is currently considering whether to introduce a "format-shifting" exception in line with the recommendation in the Gowers Report.

Copyright owners still face an uphill battle to persuade consumers that rules on content use, enforced by DRM, are fair. Consumers are also still confused about the purpose and effect of DRM. One third support DRM's aim to protect content from people who haven't paid for it, but 71% believe that, once they have bought some content, they should have the freedom to transfer that content between all their personal devices. At the same time only 12% think that, once they have bought something, they should be entitled to give it away to their friends. And only 8% support the use of DRM to control what happens to content once they have paid for it.

Even with heightened pressure against unlawful downloading, consumers are not worried about getting caught: the main reason for not infringing in this instance is moral guilt, with 34% of respondents believing it's wrong, with the second most common reason being the consumer's desire for quality authorised files (33%), this reason being especially common among 16 and 17 year olds.

Right: he thought he had the perfect way to hide the fact he'd been downloading unlicensed material on to his MP3 ...

Other highlights of the survey:

* 65% of respondents are not interested in watching TV channels or TV or movie clips on mobiles;

* 30% receive photos on their phones, and 17% receive videos, from friends at least once a month;

* Respondents who are not already streaming to their mobiles show the most interest in sideloading music or podcasts from their computers, with 15% being definitely or possibly interested in this latter activity, rather than acquiring content through the mobile network;

* 17% of respondents use video-on-demand technology, with a further 25% expressing interest in such a service;

* 68% of respondents are registered with a social networking site. Hot favourites are Facebook (44%), Friends Reunited (32%), Myspace (26%) and Bebo (16%). 43% of Facebook users use it every day.
Short newsy version of the survey here; full text (all 148 pages) here
If you want to be notified when the Fourth Annual Survey is available next year, email here to register your interest
"What consumers want, what they really, really want ..." "What consumers want, what they really, really want ..." Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 Rating: 5

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