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Digital Media Influencers Lead the Mainstream

A market study by ABI Research shows that while a large proportion of digital content is consumed by a small and influential group of digital media super-users, the mainstream user is increasingly looking for easier ways to access and manage content.

As consumers become increasingly comfortable with new digital media experiences, those hardware manufacturers that can best balance traditional use-cases with new ones will be the most able to capitalize on this growing class of digital media enthusiasts.

"Today we see a growing class of consumers that are just beginning to watch Internet video or are getting their first PVR," says research director Michael Wolf.

"This transition has them in search of better ways to manage this content cohesively. We believe that those device vendors and service providers that emphasize consumer experience while seamlessly integrating the worlds of old and new media will see the most success over time."

Generational differences will continue to impact this transition to new media consumption. Those generations fluent in both the worlds of new and old media will continue to use traditional formats while increasingly sampling new ones.

Those aged 30 to 34 are perhaps the most prolific in their use in both old and new formats, leading other groups in the size of their DVD collections (53 percent have over 40 DVDs), the likelihood they use a DVR (43 percent own one), and whether they purchase music online (24 percent).

"One of the trickle-down effects of these generational changes to new media consumption is the impact on storage requirements," adds Wolf. "Hardware vendors will benefit from growing libraries of digital media as the average amount of storage required for digital photos doubles to 1.5 GB in 2012, while the average number of digital music tracks the average consumer has in their library will grow from 221 to 372 by 2012."

I believe that the early adopter influencer will eventually lead the mainstream user to embrace a hybrid digital media storage solution -- one that combines both local attached storage and online storage. Solutions like MyFabrik.com and Box.net are on the leading edge of the new wave of integrated local/online media access applications.

I have used and reviewed several offerings in this emerging space, and while each has their unique strengths they also have a common weakness -- the user experience (UX) is too complicated for most mainstream users. Like many Web 2.0 development teams, designers are often enamored with utilizing Flash and Ajax tools, and less inclined to test and refine their user interface (UI).

That said, my "simplicity, by design" mantra is starting to resonate with both marketing and development teams at start-ups where I've been invited to participate as an alpha or beta test contributor. I'm hopeful that more new market entrants will invest the time and effort required to differentiate their offer with a uniquely intuitive customer experience.

Ethnographic research is the key to reaching increased mainstream adoption -- by fully understanding the many ways that people desire to buy, consume and manage their exploding digital content library.

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