UGC drives 'consumer surplus'

12 February 2013

BOSTON: Online media consumption is growing in both quantity and quality as consumers derive ever-greater value from digital touchpoints, a new study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has shown.

The report, Follow the Surplus: How US Consumers Value Online Media, examined the 'consumer surplus' that US consumers received from seven types of content. It defined this surplus as the value consumers themselves placed on a media-related activity or product over and above what they paid for it.

BCG calculated that the surplus from online media for the average US online user amounted to $968 per year, higher than offline media's score of $903.

"The fact that the consumer surplus is already higher for online media is somewhat extraordinary, given that online revenues represent less than 15% of the total media industry pie," said John Rose, a BCG senior partner and co-author of the report.

"This surplus will only continue to grow," he added, "driven by consumers' appreciation for an expanding array of high-quality content and the proliferation of devices."

The largest contributor towards the consumer surplus was user-generated content (UGC) and social networks, with a figure of $311, or almost a third of the online total.

TV and movies achieved the second highest contribution, at $159, followed by radio and music on $132. Meanwhile, video games and US newspapers generated comparable metrics of $226 and $119 respectively.

Of the offline content types, the books category generated the greatest surplus, at $315, followed by radio and music on $261.

The BCG study also found that owning a second connected device, typically a mobile phone, results in a 50% rise in the number of hours spent consuming media online.

"Shrewd media companies that build effective digital capabilities will enjoy opportunities to extract some of this growing consumer surplus for themselves," said Neal Zuckerman, a BCG partner and co-author of the report.  

Data sourced from Boston Consulting; additional content by Warc staff