An average of 800 hours will be spent using mobile internet this year – that’s equivalent to 33 days without sleep or pause, according to Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts. By 2021 the total will rise to 930 hours, or 39 full days.
This is the fifth edition of the Media Consumption Forecasts, which surveys changing patterns of media consumption since 2011, and forecasts how the number of time people allocate to different media will change between 2019 and 2021. Across the 57 countries that were surveyed, people will spend a collective 3.8 trillion hours using the mobile internet this year, rising to 4.5 trillion hours in 2021.

Since the first edition was published in 2015, the average amount of time people around the world spend accessing the mobile internet has risen from 80 to 130 minutes a day, at an average rate of 13% a year, spurred on by the availability of affordable smartphones, faster connections, better screens and app innovation. 

Growth is slowing, though, now that most people in the developed world who want a mobile device have one, and ownership is becoming common in developing markets. We forecast an average of 8% annual growth in time spent on mobile internet devices between 2018 and 2021. We expect mobile internet use to account for 31% of global media consumption in 2021, up from 27% this year.

Television remains the most popular global medium

Television remains the biggest medium globally, attracting 167 minutes of viewing each day in 2019. Television viewing is predicted to fall slowly to 165 minutes a day in 2021. Television will remain the world’s favourite medium throughout our forecasts, accounting for 33% of all media consumption in 2021, down from 35% in 2019.

Mobile internet has eaten into the amount of time people spend with some – but not all – rival media. Between 2014 and 2019, the average amount of time spent reading newspapers has fallen from 17 minutes a day to 11, while time spent reading magazines has fallen from 8 to 4, and time spent watching television has fallen from 171 to 167. Desktop internet use has also fallen, from 47 minutes a day to 40. 

However, consumers’ appetite for radio and cinema has remained robust, with radio listening rising from 53 minutes to 55, and time spent at the cinema rising from 1.8 minutes to 3.0 minutes a day on average, driven by a boom in cinema attendance in China.

Note that in this report, time spent with newspapers and magazines only includes time with the printed editions of these publications, while time spent with television and radio only includes time with traditionally broadcast channels and stations. Time spent with online platforms owned by publishers or broadcasters is counted as internet consumption.

Total media consumption rises to eight hours a day

The mobile internet has expanded the amount of time people spend consuming media: consumers will spend an average of 479 minutes a day with media this year, up from 420 minutes in 2013. By 2021 we expect the average consumer to spend 495 minutes a day consuming media.

“Mobile internet technology has expanded both the amount of time people spend with media and what counts as media,” said Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting at Zenith. “Media now means comparing prices on the high street, sharing jokes with friends and booking your next holiday, opening up new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers.”

“To take advantage of this abundance of media, brands need to communicate with consumers in the environments that best matches their values, and at the times when consumers are ready to move along the path to purchase,” said Matt James, Zenith’s global brand president. “This requires investing in talent and technology to unlock the value of data and create personal brand experiences.”