Physical vs Digital Media: Why there is still a future for physical media

February 19, 2014
3 min read

The value to consumers of actually owning physical media should not be underestimated, as having something which can be collected, displayed, sold, shared around or passed on is still an important consideration.

Indeed, a sizeable proportion of consumers in the UK, especially women, display a great amount of positive sentiment still towards physical books, according to consumer research carried out for Mintel’s Books and E-books UK 2013 report. While a preference for physical books is strongest among the older age groups, there is another notable spike amongst 16-24-year-olds, who are among the most tech-literate and tech–savvy consumers around. Despite this, they are the group most likely to agree that they don’t like the idea of reading a book on a screen – perhaps a demonstration of a desire among this group to ‘switch off’ occasionally from screen-based activities.

Signs of slowdown in e-reader ownership

According to data from Mintel’s Digital Trends Winter UK 2013 report, with the burgeoning levels of tablet ownership, there are the first signs of e-reader penetration beginning to level off, although Christmas 2013 may have given it a renewed boost. Part of the reason for the slowdown is that consumers are increasingly opting for a tablet device instead of, rather than as well as, an e-reader. Further down the line, convergence is the name of the game, with the first tablets beginning to emerge which incorporate e-ink displays, such as Sony’s DPT-S1.

Print newspapers still seen as more enjoyable to read

Agreement with a similar statement about reading newspapers, asked as part of the consumer research for Mintel’s National Newspapers UK 2013 report, is more linear, peaking among the oldest consumers. Nonetheless, for all age groups other than 16-24s, more than 60% of people express a preference for print editions of newspapers and even among 16-24s almost half of them do so.

Small signs of revival for vinyl in music market

Even in music, a market which has been transformed by the emergence of digital media, there are some (albeit very small) signs of resurgence in the popularity of some types of physical media, with sales of vinyl albums having grown in each of the past five years. However, to put these sales in context, they represented just 0.4% of album sales in 2012 in a market still dominated by another type of physical media, CDs.

Michael Oliver is Senior Leisure and Media Analyst at Mintel. Having worked with Mintel for over two decades, Michael has worked across many research industries, including food and drink and retail. As a key industry spokesperson for the leisure industry, Michael has most recently been approached by the national media to discuss the state of the nation’s theme park, music festival and cycling industries.

Michael Oliver
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