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What is the “digital attention recession”?

Many of us increased our screen time during the last year, both in our leisure time and our work time. Instead of in-person activities, we spent our time with Netflix’s “Tiger King”, endless Zoom meetings (both personal and professional), video games and on our Peloton bikes.

Will widespread vaccinations return our habits to where they were before, resulting in a significant tapering off of our digital content consumption? Not everyone is enthusiastic about the prospect of going back to an office, but most people will tell you they can’t wait to travel again. Today, one analyst created a name for a likely post-Covid digital decline, referring to it as the “digital attention recession”:

“As the global economy reopens, we forecast a cyclical bounce out of digital choices and into time spent in physical venues such as cinemas, live sports, theater, music festivals, restaurants, stores, etc.,” Needham analyst Laura Martin said in a note to clients. “Since consumer time is fixed, we forecast a digital attention recession over the next 12-18 months, as the physical world cannibalizes time spent and monetization from the digital world.”

Her expectation is for an overall 15% drop in the time we spend in front of screens. However, she doesn’t think this will be an even drop across the board, forecasting the biggest declines in gaming, as well as major video consumption platforms like YouTube and Netflix. She sees a much lower drop being likely for more social platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, and for platforms that make devices, like Apple. (After all, if you take that vacation, you’ll need a phone to document it and social channels to share it on.)

For marketers and advertisers, this means social platforms remain important for your audiences – even if there is a “digital attention recession” as we venture outdoors again. But if you work in video or gaming, you may find it more challenging to combat this digital drop.