Today's consumers have ravenous appetites for econtent-enough to earn them the nickname "digital omnivores." While that moniker may already be familiar to many electronic publishers and content providers, they may be surprised to learn that, between 2011 to 2012, the digital omnivore population surged 160%, according to the results of Deloitte's recent "State of the Media Democracy" survey.
In fact, 26% of consumers fall into the digital omnivore category-meaning they own a laptop, smartphone, and tablet. Ownership of the latter has increased 177% over the past year, with nearly a third of tablet owners considering the gadget one of their top three most preferred consumer electronic devices. Deloitte's survey also reveals that digital omnivores often consume digital content on tablets, smartphones, and laptops simultaneously, and 80% of multitasking occurs inside the home while watching television.
These findings suggest profound implications for digital publishers, says Alma Derricks, director of technology, media and telecommunications strategy for Deloitte Consulting LLP, the Boston-headquartered publisher of the survey.
"We used to take for granted what consumers are doing on the other side-where they are, who they're with, are they alone or in a group-but all of that is variable today," Derricks says. "Users are constantly moving around across platforms, and publishers need to keep in mind the seamlessness desired across these different devices."
To ensure that seamlessness, publishers should optimize their content for consistent experiences across devices, says Prasant Varghese, technical analyst at Icreon Tech, a web development company in New York City.
"In the publishing industry, content is king," Varghese says. "While the way you present media to users differs across phones, tablets, and laptops, your web development strategy should ensure that you're serving consistent content across all three screens."
Paul Canetti, founder/CEO of MAZ Digital, a New York City-based digital publishing platform, says content providers need to ask themselves an important question: "Do I want to be everywhere, or do I want to concentrate on a particular type of experience and do it very well? And you have to think about the different use cases. Consuming content in line at Starbucks is very different than (consuming content) on a Sunday afternoon on the couch, which is also different than sitting behind your desk."
Ask Marieke Hensel, founder and CEO of Branding Personality, a Fullerton, Calif.-based digital marketing agency, and she'll tell you that the key to reaching digital omnivores successfully is to create great content for the smaller screen-content that is easily consumed in bite-size form, which requires careful formatting and use of smaller paragraphs, bullet points, and subtitles to grab the attention of a down-scrolling reader.
"Digital omnivores are the people who share the message first about what you are interested in, influencing other consumers to buy, share or engage with your content," Hensel says. "So the better your relationship with these omnivores, the more loyal they become to you as a content source and the more they will share your content."
Relying on users as a content source can be a gamble, however, depending on the device. Smartphones and tablets are predominantly consumption devices, while laptops are primarily creation devices-an important distinction when considering the level of interactivity you want to build into your content for a particular platform, says Derricks.
"For example, you usually need the power of a laptop to edit video, while a tablet is sufficient for email and quick social media posts," Derricks says.
Lastly, publishers should also examine whether building a native app for both smartphone and tablet is the right move for them, says Patrick Hodgdon, manager of digital strategy for Bolin Marketing, a marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minn.
"To find this out, more research needs to be done to understand how their own target audiences overlap with digital omnivore demographics," Hodgdon says. "Publishers should be constantly looking at their website analytics to see how different pieces of content are consumed on mobile devices and look for insights in user behavior there."