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Global Media Usage Rose Last Year. PQ Media Says Podcasting Is One Reason Why.

After 2020 had homebound consumers gobbling up media of all forms, the expanded reopening last year brought about another shift in habits. PQ Media says global consumer media usage, including all digital and traditional media channels, grew at a 1.6% rate last year -- roughly half the 3.1% growth rate it recorded for 2020 when then the fastest increase in annual media consumption in 15 years was seen.

Growth rates were slower in the U.S. where consumer media usage was up only 0.4% in 2021 to 74.7 hours per week, with digital’s share of total media usage reaching 45.3%, according to PQ Media.

PQ Media says total audio listening rose 3.3% in 2021 to 13.66 hours per week. And it expects listening levels to rise 1.2% in 2022 and rise to 13.93 hours per week by 2023 -- a three-year 1.8% growth rate.

Podcasting and audio streaming services were among the key growth drivers for 2021’s gains. It says podcast listening rose 9.9% in 2021 to 2.11 hours per week. And it projects it will climb to 2.61 hours this year. PQ Media also says mobile video, OTT streaming video services, digital books, digital out of home media, and video games all had growth years. Meanwhile, traditional media usage fell across most media platforms, with the exception including over-the-air radio.

Overall, PQ Media says the typical person spent an average of 54.4 hours per week in 2021 consuming media.

“Over-the-air listenership rebounded in 2021 as traffic exceeding 2019 levels, but it will begin to decline in 2022 and 2023, emulating patterns that were exhibited in the years before the pandemic,” says PQ Media. “Luckily for audio operators, the rise in audio streaming and podcast listening will compensate for the over-the-air losses, as many of the over-the-air listeners are behind the rise digital audio use.”

The shift to digital media consumption has accelerated. PQ Media says digital media usage increased 8.3% in 2021 to 18.15 hours per week following a double-digit increase in 2020. At the same time traditional media consumption shrank 1.4% last year to 36.23 hours per week, the fifth consecutive year of decline. As a result, one-third (33.4%) of global media consumption in 2021 was to digital media, up from 22% in 2015. In most developed countries like the U.S. it says the share is over 40%.

PQ Media says even though overall media usage growth rates slowed down last year as COVID mandates relaxed, the 1.6% growth rate was higher than anticipated and more in line with pre-pandemic levels. It says several factors are responsible including resistance by some employees to return to offices and the so-called “Great Resignation of 2021,” in which workers quit jobs in record numbers. It also points to late-year tightening of pandemic restrictions as COVID-19 variants emerged.

“We believe media consumption has reached a saturation point. While the pandemic reversed some secular trends in 2020, this was simply a short-term disruption of key long-term trends that began to re-emerge in late 2021,” said PQ Media CEO Patrick Qunn. “The key factors remain, as various traditional media usage will continue to either decelerate or decline, such as cable TV and print media subscriptions, while smartphone penetration is at or near saturation in major markets worldwide, and several internet and mobile media channels will continue to experience slower annual growth.”

In its ninth annual Global Consumer Media Usage Forecast, PQ Media forecasts 2022 will fall somewhere between the past two years. It projects media consumers to grow at an accelerated rate of 2.5%, driven by new, more compelling original content releases, various international sporting events like the Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup, and hotly contested federal elections late in the year.

“We expect media consumption to exhibit more jagged growth patterns during the forecast period due to the rapid shift to digital media that allows 24/7 access to content,” said Quinn. “Media usage will continue to rise in even years, driven by sporting events and elections, such as the Paris Summer Olympics and U.S. presidential election in 2024, followed by flat growth in the following odd years for the overall global market and declining usage in developed nations, like the U.S.”

Among other highlights from the report -- PQ Media says the Great Generation (born before 1945) uses media the most, averaging 93.1 hours per week in 2021. But it is the so-called M-Gens born after 2013 that are increasing usage the most, with consumption rising 13.6% in 2021, as parents allow them to spend more time with videogames, books, and various digital media. Globally, i-Gens (1996 to 2012) are the first generation in which digital media usage exceeds traditional media consumption 51.4% to 48.6%, respectively.

Among the 20 largest media markets, Japan posted the highest usage in 2021 (85.5 hours per week). South Korea had the highest digital media share of total consumer media usage (49.7%).

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