Lauren Goode

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What Kind of Digital Consumer Are You?

iStockphoto | A-Digit

You have more than one mobile device. You read all your news online. You tweet while streaming Netflix via your connected set-top box, which you use in lieu of cable. You consider yourself an online efficiency expert, despite all the brain strain and multitasking.

You’re not that special. Turns out you might fall into a category of digital consumers just like yourself.

IBM’s new Digital Consumer report, which surveyed 3,800 adult consumers in China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S., showed a large increase in usage of digital devices and content services over the past few years, with 78 percent of consumers calling themselves digital device adopters this past year. It also identified four distinct personalities when it comes to digital consumption:

Efficiency Expert: This is the digital consumer who uses digital devices and services to simplify things. They use the fewest devices but still access the Internet via mobile phones, send emails rather than letters, use Facebook to communicate with people, watch video on demand at home and shop online. However, some surveyed still prefer in-store shopping to online.

Content King: There’s a reason why it’s “king” and not “queen.” This category is composed mostly of males, but represents just 9 percent of the global sample. According to Saul Berman, global strategy consulting leader of IBM’s Business Services division, these digital consumers are the gamers, the newshounds, the movie buffs. “They prefer everything to be connected to their console or TV, often watch TV shows online, they regularly download their media and play games with people online,” Berman said.

Social Butterfly: Some 15 percent of consumers surveyed reported that they frequently maintain and update social-networking sites. This group has a strong female skew, with a high frequency of digital consumption. They might own fewer devices, but they maintain more social-networking profiles, they visit these sites several times a day, they’re “tagging” others on sites, and they’re often viewing what friends are posting.

Connected Maestro: This group is indicative of where the future is headed, Berman believes. About 35 percent of those surveyed take a more advanced approach to media consumption by using mobile devices and smartphone applications to access games, music and video, or to check news, weather and sports. They use instant messaging. They own the greatest variety of digital devices, and they combine some of the behavior of a Content King and a Social Butterfly. This group also has a slightly male skew and, as Berman said, “the majority of this group say they now read digital books over printed ones.”

Interestingly, the study notes that age is no longer the most distinct segmentation when it comes to putting digital consumers into boxes. A full 82 percent of digital adopters are now between the ages of 10 and 64. “Contrary to popular belief, not all early adopters are college age; in actual fact 65 percent are aged between 55-64,” the study notes.

“Making tech simple for that audience is a key factor,” Berman said, “and they’ve seen the benefit in potential by watching people who were the initial early adopters.”

That still doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off the hook in terms of setting up printers and fixing the Internet when you’re visiting home for the holidays.

Readers: Which category do you fall into?

(Image: iStockphoto | A-Digit)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work