Media trends 2023

It is the time of the year when there is a lot of talk about ‘trends’ on the Belgian market. In a few days we will hear from a number of top industry players in Brussels. But at fma, we also find it worthwhile – in fact, it has now become an annual custom – to reflect on another trends analysis, the “Nationaal Media Onderzoek” (National Media Survey, or NMO), which our northern neighbours have just completed.

Several studies have already shown, dear advertiser, that you, as a professional working in the media business or a business related to it, estimate the use of media differently than what happens in reality. Motivaction showed in 2022 that media professionals overestimate the reach of social media and other online media. The experience of more traditional media such as newspapers and magazines on paper, listening to live radio and watching television via a device is underestimated by these professionals. Of all the media, the reach figures of both online and paper magazines are the worst predicted. And so you reach a conclusion that is a purely natural one: if media professionals use the medium in question more, their estimate of that medium’s reach is higher.
NMO’s research helps us to shake off this misguided perspective. For example, I recently heard a CMO claim that “a huge number of people” are “cutting”. To be clear and to avoid confusion, “cut” in this conversation referred to “cord-cutting”, which is the cancellation of a TV subscription provider. But what does the data show? The numbers of cord-cutters have risen slightly compared to last year but are no more than 14%, and are mainly in the cities, among the higher social classes and in single-person households. By the way, that CMO fits perfectly into that profile! Just mentioning it…
The NMO also shows that 66% of our Dutch friends now have a smart TV. In Belgium, we score a little lower in that regard, but we are closing the gap quickly. The number of registered video services also increased again, from 1.7 VOD services in 2021 to 1.9 in 2022. That is a very notable increase, especially in combination with the fact that the number of active users of the larger streaming services has also grown further. The smallest players, on the other hand, are giving up, in what is certain to become a trend: a number of larger players strengthen their position, while the smaller ones leave the field in the longer term. We are moving towards a clear market pattern and distribution over the next few years.
The trend with radio is almost exactly the same as with television. Traditional listening is declining, certainly and very conspicuously in the youth and higher educated markets. For older people who are less educated, we see the opposite effect. It is striking that the daily consumption of news is done much more online, and more by older people than by young people, who like to go back to ‘watching’ and ‘listening’ to news. The evolution towards “the video society” is no surprise, of course, but the contrast and the mix of media consumption between young and old is significant.
We get confirmation of this when we look at the proportion of households or families that still have a “radio set”: roughly 44%, which is 4% less than 2021. So about half still swear by their trusty old radio. The smart speaker has increased in share by about 3%, and is now in a quarter of Dutch households – meaning 75% have not yet found a need for one.

“So what?” we hear you ask. As you know, we have been in the media sector for several decades, and when we got our hands on Joseph Jaffe’s book in 2005, “Life after the 30-second spot”, we thought we were facing a huge (r)evolution ourselves. Jaffe said at the time: “Using the 30-second spot today is like taking a wooden sword to fight a fire-breathing dragon”. We are almost 20 years after the publication of that book and yes, much of what the author predicted has also been set in motion, but if you were now to talk to Jaffe, who has since become a top keynote speaker, you can guarantee he would be surprised at how long change is taking. It is slow and it starts largely with the younger generations – though it does not always turn out to be straightforward with them, either. Depending on the business you are in, dear advertiser, you have to change with the times, and you have to implement change, but without completely throwing the old, classic things overboard. NMO’s research shows this: changes are underway, but oh so slowly. A few per cent here, a few per cent there, yes, but biased as we are by our métier, by our focus on changes and innovations and by our own changing behaviour, we sometimes forget that many old, classic patterns still remain dominant. So don’t ignore these in your media strategy. If analysis shows that a 30-second spot for your product fits into your media plan, then you should keep buying it! Say a man in his fifties said it…
About a decade ago, I heard Steven Van Belleghem assert on stage that his son would never have to take the wheel of a car, as cars would be moving autonomously by then. My guess is that Steven’s son is 13 or 14 years old now, and you know where we are with driverless cars.
We must mention this to Steven at the upcoming UBA trends day, where he will be a top moderator.

Happy trends day, dear advertiser!


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Media trends 2023