IT is now pretty common in Seoul to see couples sitting in Starbucks, tapping away on their own smartphones. They talk with each other, yet their eyes are often fixed on their handsets, not their loved ones.
The ubiquitous presence of smartphones in everyday life is reconfiguring the way people interact, with instant connectivity to the Internet.
Naturally (or bewilderingly), the rules of the game are changing in the media industry. It used to be a simple competition: Broadcasters and print media fought to provide better and more popular content to viewers and readers without worrying about the distribution channels through which their content was delivered.
Such happy days are almost, if not already, gone. Smartphones are destroying the media value channels. The number of people watching TV regularly at home in their living rooms is plunging, for instance.
But what about the statistics suggesting that Korean viewers still watch TV on conventional sets for an average of three hours and 30 minutes per day? One media expert told me that it’s a distortion stemming from the rapid ageing in Korean society.
“It is a fact that Koreans in their 20s and 30s do not watch TV as often as they did in the past,” he said.
Another problem is the intensity of attention. These days, people do not really focus on the programmes on the small screen; instead, they check Facebook alerts and watch the “Top 10 Best Cat Videos of All Time!” with the YouTube app on their smartphones. Only when something truly interesting or shocking comes up on TV do they divert their attention to the programmes, before quickly turning back to their smartphone screens.
The flip side of the phenomenon is that people are consuming a record amount of media content overall. But this is hardly encouraging, as the diversification of distribution channels and a plethora of digital devices make it more difficult and costly to keep consumers focused on a single item for a meaningful period of time.
As digital distraction is affecting more people, attention is turning into one of the most coveted assets in the digital era. This is why Korean media firms are scrambling to overhaul their websites.
For all these efforts, however, the road ahead is filled with treacherous patches for Korean media. Worse, people are unlikely to reverse their behavior patterns. More couples will keep silent in cafes and restaurants with their smartphones, and more viewers will keep pretending to watch TV while checking out cute cats. — Korea Herald / Asia News Network
>Contributed by Yang Sung-jin who is the digital content desk editor of The Korea Herald
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