This is Your Digital Life

US household digital media consumption 2008-2015.

By 2015, Americans’ ability to access digital media at home and on mobile devices will raise the average volume of media consumed to the equivalent of nine DVDs worth of data per person, per day – not including whatever media they consume at work.

That estimate adds up to 15.5 hours of media use per day per person, which breaks down to 74 gigabytes of data per person and a national, collective total of 8.75 zettabytes, according to the report written James E. Short, a researcher at the University of California-San Diego’s Marshall School of Business and lead scientist at SDSC, and co-authors.

Between 2008 and 2013, Americans grew from watching 11 hours of media per day to 14 hours per day – a growth rate of about 5 percent per year, Short wrote in the report.

The increasing number of digital-data consumers and shift from analog to digital media drove the total volume of data in bytes to grow 18 percent per year. That growth rate “is less than the capacity to process data, driven by Moore’s Law, [of about] 30 percent per year,” Short wrote, “but is still impressive.”

TV and Radio still make up 60 percent of the hours of media we consume, but new digital news sources are growing quickly. In 2008, mobile computers accounted for 3 percent of digital media traffic; in 2013 mobile computers use 10 percent of all digital data – a growth rate of 27 percent. Video accounted for 6.26 zettabytes (3.8 from TV and 2.46 from gaming); 2.49 zettabytes came from everything else, which includes social media, Internet use, search, email, instant messaging, texts and other ways for the data-parched to sip from the firehose.

Social media is growing even faster than other options – 28 percent per year, from 6.3 billion hours in 2008 to an estimated 35.2 billion hours in 2015.

Much of the increase is driven by availability of digital data and new formats through which to view it – texts, instant messages, Pinterest, Instagram, Vimeo and other graphics-oriented social network sites. The real driving mechanism is the growing capabilities of the mobile devices Americans carry, as well as the speed of the networks that connect them, the report concluded.

While measuring phenomena is a goal in itself for scientists, the point of this exercise is to monitor the changing media-consumption habits and media channels of Americans, with an eye toward perhaps using those networks for something more useful than re-posts of the same cute-kitten videos and increasingly ancient Far Side cartoons.

“While machines can always overload us, it’s more a question of, how can we design these systems to produce meaningful value? That’s the critical challenge as we speed further into the age of digitally-based information,” Short wrote.

Companies expecting to catch the attention of either employees or customers will have to do so in the context of an increasingly media-swamped population. Digital data consumption will continue to rise, the SDSC projections estimate, possibly to more than an average of 24 hours per person per day – which is only possible assuming multiple simultaneous data streams running through the minds of Americans watching TV, browsing the Web and texting each other simultaneously, probably to ask why they never have time to just sit and talk any more.

 

Image: U.Calif.-San Diego, James E. Short