UK's preference for physical media overtakes love of digital downloads, as 18 - 24 year olds power the resurgence


This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: UK's preference for physical media overtakes love of digital downloads, as 18 - 24 year olds power the resurgence.

Physical media is the nation's entertainment format of choice once more, with 52% of Brits preferring physical books, music, film/TV and video games to digital downloads, according to eBay's Guide to Physical Media, released today.

This new insight, based on a survey of over 2,000 shoppers and eBay marketplace data, reveals that more than three quarters (76%) of British adults have bought at least one item of physical media in the last year, fuelled by the emotional appeal of ownership and an increasing desire to disconnect from the digital world.

'Digital natives' between the ages of 18 and 24 are playing a big part in the revival, with 83% of this age group having bought an item of physical media in the last year.

eBay's 2017 Guide to Physical Media also finds that the average person today owns 260 physical media items – 91 CDs, 88 books, 63 DVDs/Blu-rays and 18 video games – with one in ten owning more than 300 books.

On, 58 items of physical media are bought every minute (23 books, 13 DVDs, nine CDs, nine video games and four vinyl records).[1]

And consumers are not letting their collections gather dust on their shelves.

Each month:

  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of Brits read a physical book
  • Six in ten (60%) listen to music on a CD
  • Over half (54%) watch films or TV on DVD or Blu-ray
  • One in five (19%) listen to vinyl
  • Nearly one in three (31%) play a computer game on disc or cartridge

Generation 'Phygital'

Physical media is experiencing a revival amongst 'digital natives' – with vinyl showing a particular resonance with this generation. One in four (25%) 18-24 year olds have bought a vinyl record in the last year, and over a third (38%) of 18-24 year old vinyl buyers purchase vinyl at least once a month.

Nearly two thirds (64%) of 18-24 year olds have bought a real book in the last year, 56% have bought a DVD and just over half (51%) have bought a video game.

Instagram culture – epitomised by the rise of the "shelfie" as a means of proclaiming our intellectual allegiances and cultural loyalties – also plays a role in the popularity of physical media amongst young consumers. A quarter of 'generation phygital' would buy books to display them, while 17% of 18-24 year olds would buy records to show off on their shelves.

Rob Hattrell, Vice President, eBay UK:

"In today's digitised world, physical media has an emotional and social cache that appeals to our desire to own the things we love, as well as our penchant for status and showing off. Our Guide to Physical Media delves into why Brits love it and what's behind the 830 million searches for physical media on our marketplace over the last year – a number that is set to rise as people shop for entertainment for their Christmas stocking fillers."

Stocking filler favourites

The giftable nature of physical media entertainment makes Christmas a crucial time for sellers, and the first Sunday of December marks the point when shoppers' interest in physical media peaks.

On Sunday 4th December 2016, there were more than 2.8 million searches in the four physical media categories on - Books, Comics & Magazines; DVDs, Film & TV; Music; and Video Games & Consoles.

By analysing what has been trending amongst UK shoppers on eBay this summer (June, July and August 2017), eBay has predicted what physical media items the nation will be finding in its Christmas stockings come 25th December:

  • Books - Dystopian fiction is back, with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale ranked as the third most popular fiction book on over the summer. Orwell's 1984 and Golding's Lord of the Flies were also highly sought after
  • Music – Classic albums on vinyl have been in high demand - The Beatles, David Bowie and Pink Floyd were the biggest artists on
  • DVD/Blu-ray - The fantasy phenomenon helped boost the DVD and Blu-ray category, and HBO's Game of Thrones was one of the most searched for titles
  • Video Games - Familiar favourites Crash Bandicoot, Fifa and GTA ranked highly in video game searches this summer
  • Alongside 2017's latest trends, Brits traditionally revisit the classics over the festive period. In December 2016, the BBC's Only Fools and Horses DVDs and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol ranked amongst the top searches in their categories

To satisfy the growing demand for physical media, eBay has recently launched The Entertainment Shop, a curated one-stop shop for books, film, music and games.

[1] Calculated from data from July 2016 – July 2017

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