Kara Swisher

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Study: Online Media Pays Off for Consumers More Than Offline


Apparently, you can get media satisfaction — as long as you are online as opposed to offline.

According to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group, consumers accrue more value from their online media usage than from their offline consumption.

The new research report — titled “Follow the Surplus: How U.S. Consumers Value Online Media” — calculated that the average U.S. online user got a “consumer surplus” of $970, compared to $900 from offline media.

BCG defines consumer surplus as “the value consumers themselves place on a media-related activity or product over and above what they pay for it.”

The report looked at seven categories — books, radio and music, U.S. newspapers and magazines, TV and movies, video games, international newspapers and magazines and user-generated content and social networks.

The largest chunk of online consumer satisfaction came from UGC and social, such as use of Facebook and Google’s YouTube, which makes sense since the actual cost is nearly zero — making any benefit essentially digital gravy.

Books were where the least consumer surplus was online. That’s not a surprise, said BCG senior partner John Rose, who coauthored the report, but it is likely to change soon with the increasing popularity and proliferation of a variety of devices.

That’s double from three years ago, with the average consumer now owning 2.9 devices, such as mobile smartphones and tablets. It will increase to 4.1 in three years, said the BCG report. Also up, of course, is the number of hours spent online, which — in turn — dramatically increases the value of online media consumption.

Advertisers still have not caught up with consumers, of course. “The value is from the consumers’ perspective and not the advertisers’ perspective yet,” said Rose, in an interview. “The business models are still not in place to support what consumers already know they want.”

Gender is not an issue, with men and women both consuming about 12 hours a week of online content. But men listen to more music, while women prefer social interaction more.

Another interesting result, read the report: “By a margin of some five to one, U.S. consumers are more excited about the Internet’s potential rewards than they are worried about the potential risks.”

In other words, they like online media, they really like it.

That’s why, said Rose, the medium and the business model will evenutally come together.

“Different people will say different things about when it will come together and not if it will come together,” said Rose. “Advertisers have always found ways to create value, even if they have not done it yet with online media.”

There are lots of other interesting findings and charts from BCG, some of which are embedded below (click to enlarge them and the whole report can be found and downloaded here).

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald