Media Embrace the Opportunities of Ageing Audiences. Great Economist article.

Another great article from the Economist. This time on the ageing of media audiences.

One reason why media companies are not too worried about the ageing of their audiences has to do with a change in business models. A firm that depends on advertising needs to attract valuable consumers. A firm that relies on subscriptions, by contrast, cares only whether its consumers pay their monthly bills. And perhaps the strongest trend in media in the past few years-stronger even than ageing-is the growing reliance on subscription as a means of paying for content. BSkyB, Discovery Communications, ESPN, Netflix: many of the media industry’s best-performing companies and hottest stocks of recent years rely on subscriptions.

Click here for the full Economist article.

I’ve summarised the highlights here:

As advertisers tend to be most interested in how a show rates among people aged between 18 and 49 a growing proportion of viewers are becoming almost invisible to marketers!


  • Between 2002 and 2010 the proportion of American papers’ regular readers who were aged 55 or more rose from 37% to 46% (see chart). 
  • 43% of readers of Britain’s Daily Telegraph and Daily Express are at least 65 years old.


  • While the young have drifted to illegal file-sharing and free streaming services such as Spotify. By and large, the middle-aged and old have not. Older fans have more money and more scruples. They also regard illegal downloading as “too much work”.
  • In Britain people aged 60 or over spent more on pop-music albums in 2009 than did teenagers or people in their 20s. 
  • Sony Music’s biggest-selling album worldwide last year was “The Gift”, by Susan Boyle, a 50-year-old Scot whose appeal derives in part from her lack of youth.


  • In Spain 54.2% of people aged 55 to 64 routinely listened to the radio last year-up from 46.6% in 2000.
  • Japanese baby-boomers carry on buying music at an age by which earlier generations had largely stopped. Singers who appeal to the middle-aged and old, such as Hideaki Tokunaga and Junko Akimoto, rule the charts.


  • In America since 2003 the median age of a prime-time CBS viewer has increased by three years
  • Viewers of ABC and NBC are five years older; Fox’s, seven and a half. 
  • The audience that tunes in to Desperate Housewives is approaching 50.
  • Every network except Fox had a median age of 50 or over last year.
  • British 55- to 64-year-olds spent an average of five hours and ten minutes a day watching television last year-50 minutes more than in 2001. 
  • The middle-aged and old now have free digital channels dedicated to their tastes, such as ITV3, home of wrinkly detective dramas, and the highbrow BBC Four. They have seized on easy-to-use gadgets like digital video recorders, which increase their enjoyment of television.
  • CBS (in the USA) has devised an alternative way of classifying viewers that emphasises tastes and attitudes to media (for example as “sports enthusiasts” or “surfers and streamers”) rather than age.


  • The proportion of people aged 65-plus who get most of their news from the internet may be only 14%-but in 2006 it was a mere 2%.
  • Recently, paywalls have gone up around the New York Times and the Dallas Morning News. The websites of Britain’s Times and News of the World began to restrict access to subscribers last year. Hulu, an American website that carries broadcast TV programmes, and Spotify, a European music-streaming service, are both pushing subscriptions.

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