SXSW 2011: Diversity in the Digital Age

Anne Hunter (@followanne)
VP Advertising Effectiveness

How does the Internet change how we define communities and ourselves? What does diversity mean in a world of technological grazing? What does diversity matter at all?

This topic is looking at Diversity in what we classicly define as diversity, and what Diversity is on the internet. A digital medium, like the internet, can have the same kind of effect on communities that a television can have in local environments as it causes them to change.

Definition of Common Diversity:

  • The condition of having or being composed of different elements; variety, especially.

Definition of Digital Age Diversity:

  • The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect.
  • It means understanding that each individual is unique and recognixing our individual differences
  • These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social-eco status, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Statistics on how people use the internet:

  • Genders: 54% of internet users worldwide are male. Mobile phones play a large part in this. Males, especially in the United States, are more likely to have smart phones. As prices drop, women being to buy these phones and actually consume more content than males through these devices.
  • Ages: The younger the generation, the more internet use they do. As we get older our generation will use the internet more than currently elder generations.
  • Locations: The Asian Pacific is the largest area for internet usage, and it’s not the USA. They are 38.9% of the worldwide usage.
  • How Often: Typically, every person in the world access the internet 18 days a month.
  • How Long: Statistically each person spends 26 minutes per use of the internet.
  • How Quickly: They are on broadband, they have a cell phone, they send text messages, but other countries do not have smart phones yet. This is, however, rapidly changing. Typically new technology is first obtained my “wealthy” males, and then later passed to the rest of the world and genders.

What websites: Globally 73.9% visit Google, 66.7% visit Microsoft Sites, 50.6% visit Facebook, 48.0% visit Yahoo, and 31% visit Wikimedia.

But Internet use is not typical! In January 2011 there were 416 thousand people in southwest Brazil were reading pet content online. 381 thousand people pensioners (older individuals) in the UK went online looking for love on personals sites. 1.3 million men between the ages of 25-44 in Vietnam were looking at cosmetic websites.

Does the ability to connect with other like-minded people mean we’re more diverse? Well, the internet has really made human “grazers.” We’re like Human Cows. The power of $0.99: On average 18 songs are purchased on iTunes per person. However, less than 2 songs per album. There’s not a lot of commitment for any one certain artist. People are looking at 9.8 artists per month, per person. Are there areas in music where people are more committed, buying specific genres, etc? Well, New Age is the most common, then Classical, Metal, Jazz, Inspirational, Rock, Christian, Hip hop, …, and Latino. Commitment to a particular artist varies worldwide. Brazil and Sweden are the most committed, and the USA is the least.

Even specialized content consumption changes online. Essence print magazine reaches 40% of all African American women every month in print. And almost all of these women who receive this are African American. However, online only 1/3rd of people who access their website are African American. This is because online you can link to an article and sample pieces of the magazine without having to commit to the entire thing which is targeting a demographic. This is a change we have not seen before, because access to content has always been very specific.

Video content consumption changes online. 180 million USA video viwers. 85% of internet users viewed at least one video. 13 hours of viewing time per view. Unlike sitting down and watching a sitcom, the average video length we watch is 3.9 minutes per video. This is because we’re “grazing.”

If we are grazing more, does that mean we’re committed to things less? Typically core audiences are still more engaged online. African Americans spend 62% more time per person on than non-African Americans. African Americans consume 2x as many pages on than non-African Americans.

The appearance of Diversity, the reinforcement of community. Sites link to other sites that are relevant to the topic, or ideas. Recommendation engines for example does this. If we start interacting with a certain group, they’ll start providing us with other knowledge and links for related materials. This happens with the advertising we see so that we are more interested in this.

How the internet introduces me. The first thing Facebook says about us is our job. Then it lists college and major, residence, relationship status, and then hometown. In a verbal conversation typically these things do not come up. However, with the internet we use this to introduce one another. Who you are is defined by different definition of your community. This online almost makes us less diverse, but gives us the abilities to connect.

Diversity prevents Vulnerability. The more diverse our MHC genes are the stronger our immune system. Inbreeding can make populations vulnerable to diseases because you do not have the genetic immune system built up.

Diversity breeds innovation. Societies with diverse natural resources prosper. Environmental barriers prevent the spread of ideas and societies innovated from new ideas.

The internet is a tool for benevolent and nefarious excuses. To harness the power of the internet, we must actively steward all forms of diversity. We need to go with full heart and say to ourselves, “Am I learning and reinforcing my ideas to help myself, or to limit my diversity to see the other side of the story?” As we go forth, we need to make sure we are active stewards of this.

In the Fortune 500 companies, the most gender diverse boards outperformed by 66% with women on their boards. In 2011 the World Economic Forum found equality drove prosperity as countries with almost parity between men and women to succeed the most.

Posted in SXSW 2011.

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