Reaching Wider Audiences by Focusing on Content and Service Accessibility

Many potential consumers are overlooked as they don't have reliable access to the Internet, own a credit card or can't access content in their own language. Here's a host of solutions to make content more accessible.

This article presents an excerpt from our Trends Report: 2017 Mid-Year Update.

« Internet companies have largely focused on people with reliable access to the internet, credit cards and bank accounts. By overlooking consumers without such advantages, media and tech companies are missing out on a potential population of 50 million Americans.”

- Michael Wolf as paraphrased by The Wall Street Journal, 2016

There are several obstacles that prevent a service or content from reaching all potential consumers in Canada and throughout the world. Thousands of people do not have access to a connection that is either fast or reliable enough to view TV content over the Internet. Others do not possess a device enabling them to connect to the Internet or yet again they hit a language barrier.

The good news is that there also exists a host of solutions to make content more accessible and transform these challenges into business opportunities.

Internet connection speed

On a global scale, the average Internet connection speed (fixed access) was 7.2 MB/s during the first quarter of 2017, which is slightly faster than the 5 MB/s recommended to stream video in HD.

However, mobile connections—which could account for 71% of Internet use in 2017 according to Zenith—are much slower. In fact, 45% of mobile connections today still use a 2G network.

For a large number of consumers, this situation makes it very difficult or even impossible to use certain mobile applications or to stream television content or videos.

In Canada, the average download speed is 21.7 MB/s according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority. However, there are major disparities between urban and rural areas.

The objective pursued by the CRTC is to provide a download speed of 50 MB/s to all Canadians within the next 15 years. There are currently about 2 million Canadians without access to such a speed.

To reach these users without access to a fast and reliable connection, many social networks have decided to focus on the development of ‘light’ versions of their mobile applications. Facebook Lite, Messenger Lite, Instagram Lite, Twitter Lite and YouTube Go consume less data, take up less space on a hard drive and—first and foremost—do not require the use of a highly powerful or state-of-the-art device to operate properly.

It’s no secret: the web’s giants hope to conquer an enormous market that is in full expansion before competitors like Snapchat, whose application is very data intensive and requires a fast and reliable connection to operate properly. For social networks, this strategy is all the more necessary considering that highly developed markets are becoming increasingly saturated.

Emerging markets are responding positively. A year and a half after its launch, Facebook Lite is available in a hundred or so countries and now boasts more than 200 million users.

Moreover, these ‘light’ services go beyond simply improving accessibility in emerging markets. Following the launch of the light version of its mobile website, Twitter experienced a sharp increase in engagement levels among all of its mobile users. The speed of the new service led to a 75% increase in the number of tweets sent.

Methods of payment

The methods of payment proposed to access content and services can also be problematic. Credit cards are the most widespread method of payment for goods and services purchased online, but they are not accessible to all.

According to data compiled by Statista, 73% of the world’s population aged 16 years and up held no credit card in 2016. This situation is not exclusive to developing countries. Once again according to Statista, 21% of Canadians and 38% of Americans aged 16 and up didn’t own a credit card in 2016.

Major American players, such as OTT services like Netflix and HBO Now as well as the STARZ pay television channel, decided to tackle the problem head on by proposing the purchase of gift cards or prepaid cards for the purpose of accessing their content.

However, the use of these cards raises serious challenges, including audience loyalty and fraud risks. Several analysts are therefore placing a lot of hope in alternatives such as blockchain technology, a tool that could secure transactions and reduce their cost, as well as cryptocurrencies such as the Bitcoin that can be used everywhere on the planet. However, we’ll have to wait until these technologies gain in popularity before they become viable alternatives to currently available payment options.

It’s also worth noting that the diversification of payment options makes it possible to reach not only the least fortunate of consumers, but also the youngest consumers who are less inclined than their elders to use a credit card.

Access to content in one’s own language

A last but not least barrier is the preponderance of certain languages such as English and Mandarin on the Internet, despite the multitude of languages spoken throughout the world. In Africa alone, more than 2,000 languages are spoken.

This multiplicity is also significant here, given 20% of Canadians in 2011 declared neither English nor French as their mother tongue.

Although the majority of internet users go for English or Mandarin when they are online, several other languages are increasingly used on the web. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of people using Arabic on the web went up by 6,800% and the number of people using Russian increased by 3,200%.

Another language that could be increasingly used on the web is French. According to the Observatoire de la langue française (OLF), the number of Francophones will double in the coming decades, increasing from 274 million to more than 700 million in 2050, representing 8% of the world’s population. This increase would be attributable namely to Africa’s demographic growth.






Over 85% of the world’s population for whom French is the official language will live on the African continent by 2065. It is mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa that the increase in the number of French-speaking Africans will be the strongest, in countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Madagascar, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo and Senegal among others.

Africa’s Francophone populations present enormous potential namely because of the growth in the consumption of mobile telephony services and the emergence of a middle class. It is becoming easier and easier to access this market through digital technology which is gradually erasing national boundaries and replacing them by linguistic zones.

Posted in: Business Practices

Tags: audience, business model, discoverability, distribution, trends, tv

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