The Consumers’ Dilemma: Finding the Time to Consume

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: The Consumers’ Dilemma: Finding the Time to Consume

I’ve come to accept the fact that weekends are not what they used to be. Gone are the days of leisure reading. One must work quickly and ambitiously to tackle the stacks of papers (and/or saved browser tabs) amassed throughout the work week.

Catching up on television and video programming is often worthy of an entire Sunday. It is not easy to feel well read and up-to-date in an era of such intense content proliferation.

For what it’s worth, I dislike the word “content” -- a nebulous catchall for “all those things media companies can do.” A shift in terminology to “programming” and its various iterations would help to crystallize the conflict currently at hand: There is too much to consume and too little time to do so.

It was at last Wednesday’s CoInvent Media Summit, held at Manhattan law firm Anchin Block & Anchin, that Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at global publicity firm Edelman, articulated just that. While other speakers sought to make a case for various methods of content distribution, in only a few words, Rubel summed up the industry’s most pressing issue -- the inverse relationship of content to time. I was grateful for the jolt of relevance. For every conference panel debating the future of OTT content or mobile video, there is an audience that may be better served the hour to catch up on programming.

For me, the major takeaway of the CoInvent Media Summit was that there is no off switch to content discoverability, creating both the most opportunistic and challenging of times for content providers. The same is true for the consumer.

One can always come across content worth consuming (or is, at least, enjoyable to consume). I just began a very serious relationship with “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” thanks to a mistaken channel change. Most of my online reading comes from links on Twitter without any purposeful searching. And there is no limit to the recommendations I field from friends via social media, email and word-of-mouth. One email from a friend I received last week read, “I’m sorry to do this to you.” Linked below her ominous note was a long-form piece from Fast Company (which I read last weekend, thank you very much).

Her sentiments ring true. I have sent similar missives with appropriate disclaimers: “when you have time, see below,” “if you have the chance…” “LONG but worth the read,” etc.

I’m now part of an Articles Club -- 2015’s answer to the Book Club of yore because none of my contemporaries have the bandwidth to finish a book in time for our monthly meetings. In fact, very few have the bandwidth to finish the selected articles in time for our monthly meetings.

As a consumer, I am completely overwhelmed by all there is to read, watch, see and do. Just yesterday I convincingly referred to The Atlantic as a bi-weekly magazine. It’s a monthly but with so many back issues left to page through I could only have assumed.

And yet, I am grateful for all the choice -- there is no shortage of good programming. Perhaps Dickens was off by a century or so when he wrote, “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.”

How companies vie for a fixed share of consumers’ time will be the limiting factor of this decade’s media economy. There is no one size fits all approach to distribution so I am left wondering this: When do we reach the saturation point? Or have we already?

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