Despite the Russian-Ukraine war dampening economic spirits in the post-Covid world, the rise of value-added services (VAS) and content seen during the pandemic showed no signs of abating in 2023. All those consumers that were forced to seek entertainment, company and solace during successive global lockdowns seem to now be wedded to this way of life. In fact, globally the reliance on mobile for entertainment consumption has grown since the pandemic as those in markets across the world look to live digitally.
To this end the VAS content market is on a roll. Data from The Business Research Company shows that the global mobile VAS market will grow from a staggering $796.04bn in 2022 to $894.84bn this year – a CAGR of 12.4% – and is set to accelerate to $1459.09bn by 2027.
This growth is driven by the rising number of smartphone users worldwide, both in developed and developing markets. This has spurred ever-greater numbers of consumers to get online and, more importantly, to embrace digital content consumption and ecommerce. Not only are they all online, but they are also more than willing to pay for things out there on the web.
Video content leads the pack, with streaming services having inculcated a hunger in all populations in all regions and of all ages for visual content. While the likes of Netflix and Prime offer long form content, it is the smaller, snackable stuff that has the mass market appeal.
It comes as no surprise that, with an impressive 1.97 billion unique visits each month dwelling for an average of 20 minutes and 22 seconds per visit, video sharing giant YouTube is the most popular website in the world according to Productivity Spot. From a traffic perspective, YouTube was second only to Google, which came out on top with a score of 72.75 out of 100. Google has a staggering 3.19 billion unique users per month. However, each user spends ‘just’ 10 minutes 37 seconds on the search engine per visit.
YouTube, on the other hand, was revealed as the website that people spend the most time on, with an index score of 65.56 out of 100. It clocked a staggering 33.57 billion visits per month, making it the second most visited website in the world behind Google.
Jim Markus, Director at Productivity Spot comments on the study: “Looking at how long users spend on a website is a useful metric for gauging how engaging it is, but it doesn’t tell you the full story if the site doesn’t receive a lot of visitors. We felt it prudent to consider other factors within our index, such as monthly web traffic and bounce rate, to ensure that the findings were more representative of the sites we spend the most time on.
“YouTube seems to have captured our attention the most, with the average user spending more than 20 minutes watching content and browsing the platform each time they visit. The average duration of a YouTube video is estimated to be 4 minutes 24 seconds, meaning that each user is watching 4.6 videos on average per desktop visit.
Quality and stickiness
This embrace of video content – both short and long-form – is now the basis of the telemedia VAS content market, with all the tropes of sports highlights, health and wellbeing, self-improvement and entertainment all still very much in demand. However, there is a shift in what content is increasingly being purchased to by VAS providers and those looking to monetise traffic. Today, its not necessarily about length, but more about quality and that elusive quality ‘stickiness’.
According to Seriously Fresh Media’s Julia Di Mambro, video is definitely the most popular form of content today worldwide, but the quality of that content is now paramount.
“All our clients want content that will extend the lifespan of users of their propositions. What we are seeing in particular are newsfeeds from RSS across multiple verticals,” she says. “Celebrity, entertainment, fashion, tech and actual news are especially popular and this content is very cheap and cost effective to produce and regularly update.”
This need to update regularly has become one of the main factors around making content engaging and services sticky and is, as Di Mambro says, “makes it the perfect product for the market at the moment.”
Interestingly, with YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok capturing huge swathes of the Gen Z and Gen Alpha markets globally with short form content, the services that companies such as Seriously Fresh sell is spread over short and long-form content.
“It’s a 50:50 split between long and short form content right now, with our clients requesting not only news feeds, but also documentaries and movies. The thing they all have in common is that they want very high-quality content of all lengths.”
Cookies Digital’s Valentina Tranquilli agrees. “Quality content is essential and it needs to be updated regularly and length really does depend on what the content is covering.”
Cookies specialises in esports and gaming content and so features a lot of short form news and behind the scenes material, as well as really long form content when covering an entire eSports tournament.
Name of the engagement game
The name of the game in VAS is engagement and to deliver that, content has to be rich, high-quality, constantly up-dated and easy to access. “Video continues to stand out as the way to do this,” stresses Di Mambro. “It is the most powerful form of content right now and what users want to pay for. Carrier billing is also making it easy to access it and pay for it on the fly.”
UGC having a moment
Already the power behind the rise of social media, user generated content (UGC) – content created by users themselves – is starting to not only drive the rise of short-form content on sites such as SnapChat and TikTok, but has also become a major traffic source on YouTube. In fact, YouTube, fearing it was likely to lose traffic to this short-form video-driven social sites, launched YouTube Shorts to tap into this market.
However, UGC is starting to find its way into all manner of other online offerings. It is already playing a growing role in ecommerce, with product reviews, unboxings and other related experiences making it into the reviews sections of many websites.
Polls, quizzes and AR filters are also all starting to see many younger users creating inventive and new ways to promote themselves, the brands they love (and those they hate) and to create interesting entertainment across a range of platforms.
UGC is very powerful. In the age of cynicism, it looks more genuine and this in itself makes the content very sticky and interesting.
This has led to a raft of micro-influencers arriving online, which in turn reshapes the kinds of content that users want to watch. This trend is one that is going to see content shift in 2024 towards even more short-form offerings, but more with much of it offering UGC-like influence.
It is also leading to the use of branded hashtags and UGC based ad campaigns that use UGC to drive engagement and brand awareness to new heights. Expect to see more of this in 2024 and beyond.