Digital Consumers Showing Signs of Fatigue, Distrust

In 2019, digital technologies and new media continue to expand, innovate, and evolve at a phenomenal pace. But, as a new media industry report shows, consumers are starting to grow wary.

Earlier this week, I saw this tweet from tech writer and analyst Katie O’Neil:

I was thinking of this as I read through the 2019 Trends Report by the Canada Media Fund (CMF), the annual — very thorough — look at media and audiovisual industry trends in Canada and abroad.

AI, Interactive Media, and EdTech take off

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This year’s report (titled Hold My Hand) highlighted some amazing advancements in Artificial Intelligence, including AI that can create original paintings, videos, stories, and sounds (raising the question of who owns what content? And can machines be programmed to be creative?).

The education technologies (EdTech) sector has also taken off, with the global industry expected to achieve revenues of $40.9 billion by 2022. Gamification tools, and virtual and augmented reality technologies, are being used more and more in classrooms to create a richer, more interactive learning environment for students.

Speaking of interactive: storytelling media are growing much more adaptive to their audiences. Amazon has created a smart speaker specifically for children that offers parent-approved content on demand. Storyflow, out of Toronto, has created an “interactive voice entertainment” platform for any smart speaker that includes choose-your-own-adventure style stories for children.

On the other hand…

On the flip side of all these fascinating new digital activities, the report noted that we’re all spending more time staring at screens than ever before. Online work tools and social / entertainment media, as viewed through computer screens or — more and more — mobile devices, are occupying a good chunk of our waking hours.

This state of tech symbiosis does not seem to be sitting happily with many people. One study referenced in the CMF report found that, during the last year, one in five people surveyed had gone through a “digital detox”, i.e. disconnecting completely from the online world for a specific period of time. Further, “70% of respondents admitted trying to reduce their consumption in some way”.

Digital fatigue, and the health effects of technologies, is a growing concern. So is the commercial (and sometimes nefarious) use of consumers’ private data.

Not without my data

An October 2018 survey mentioned by CMF found that 62% of Canadians are worried about how businesses use their personal information. The Cambridge Analytica scandal cast a long shadow over Facebook, and people now feel disillusioned about what information social media firms can uncover about them (and how that information is used). Added on to that, revelations about Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Grindr, and other tech companies have caused many to rethink how they use online tools, period, and who they share their personal identifier details with.

“Following the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal, companies must now gain—or regain—and cultivate consumers’ trust… The protection of personal information and privacy is more important than ever in gaining an edge over your competition,” advises the CMF report.

That said, despite all the angry words and fist-shaking, most people are still using Facebook, Google, and all the other contentious digital tools, raising the question of just how much they truly value their privacy (and how far digital platforms can push their luck).

At the very list, many are now signalling that they will think twice before giving any company access to their online information or activities. It may take more than a fun aging meme to get them back on board.

View the entire Canada Media Fund 2019 Trends Report here.

Meagan Hampel
Meagan Hampel
An expert in technology communications with over 10 years of experience, Meagan is well-versed in translating complex topics into stories that can be understood by anyone. She spent four years working as a science reporter in the UK, covering a diverse range of research and industry breakthroughs. Since 2014, Meagan has led the communications team at Cybera, a not-for-profit, technology-neutral organization responsible for driving Alberta’s economic growth through the use of digital technology. She passionately believes in the importance of increasing the breadth and quality of Alberta’s digital resources, for the benefit of everyone. Meagan is also fascinated by new communications technologies, and the integration of multimedia tools with traditional storytelling.