Structural features

What sets information consumption apart from material and energy resource consumption is the consumption structure. Therefore, analyzing the consumption structure can contribute to consumption theory studies of the information resource industry. The particularity of information consumption renders the research variables and key analysis points of the consumption structure of the information resource industry different from traditional consumption economics and industrial economics. Hence, an in-depth analysis of information consumption structure entails methodology innovation.

For that, we classified information consumption into direct and indirect consumption based on the consumption modes of consumption objects. The former refers to direct consumption of information in its own right; the latter refers to the process of indirect consumption of information during the consumption of other resources, products, or services. Alongside that, information consumption can also fall into active consumption and passive consumption based on consumers’ subjective wishes during the consumption. Therefore, there are four basic types of information consumption, namely, direct active type, direct passive type, indirect active type, and indirect passive type,13 according to the proportions and combinational relationships of the consumption modes of consumption objects (direct consumption and indirect consumption) and consumers’ subjective wishes during the consumption of information resources (active consumption and passive consumption), as shown in Figure 2.4. After an in-depth study on the information consumption structure, we found there are two prominent features of the structure.

Structural features of information consumption

Figure 2.4 Structural features of information consumption

Loose coupling between consumption behavior and motive

Unlike material and energy consumption, information consumption includes such different consumption types as active consumption and passive consumption, leading to the separation of “behavior" from “motive” in information consumption; that is, the motive and the behavior in the same information consumption activity may exist in different subjects. However, material and energy consumption is generally the active behavior of the consumption subject, and the consumption motive and behavior co-exist in the same subject, also consumer; that can be explained with the motive-behavior model. However, information consumption occurs in the two-sided market. The motive and the behavior often are separated from each other, and there may be inconsistency of the motive with the behavior subject. For example, during the passive consumption of advertising information, the consumption motive does not come from the consumption behavior subject but from the provider of information products or the third-party advertiser. In the structure of the Chinese network video information market, active consumption and passive consumption coexist. Video consumption mainly falls under active direct consumption, while advertising information consumption mostly belongs to passive direct consumption. The related statistical data show that, from 2013, users in the Chinese network video information industry' began to actively search for videos they need by the site search function (45.7%) and by browsing by category (36%) and recently played videos (30.6%).14 However, they have been very dissatisfied with various advertisements in network videos, particularly with the passive consumption process of pause advertisements (advertisements popping up when the videos are on).

Tight coupling between information consumption and material (or energy) consumption

Unlike material and energy consumption, information consumption involves a ratio of direct consumption with indirect consumption, as well as integration of “information” with “material (or energy).” Information consumption is often accompanied by material or energy consumption and hard to separate from other types of resources. Hence, an indirect consumption mode existing in information consumption helps realize the integration of information consumption with material (or energy) consumption

Evolution features

The evolution process of information consumption is divided into three basic stages from the type and change mode of the information consumption structure, namely, content consumption, integration consumption, and service consumption, corresponding to passive direct consumption, passive indirect consumption, and active indirect consumption in the information consumption structure, as presented in Table 2.3. Information consumption in the Chinese network video industry has stepped into the vertical integration consumption (integration consumption) stage from the consumption of pin e video contents but has not entered into the service

Table 2.3 Evolution features of information consumption



Integration Consumption



Evolution Stage

Initial stage

Key stage

Advanced stage

Consumption Granularity


Content + supplies + materials

Content + supplies + materials + wisdom

Active or Passive





Direct or Indirect Consumption




Way of Consumption

Consumption by experiencing or subscription

■Vertical integration consumption

Custom consumption


Video content

Video content + video player (software) + video player hardware

Video industry data analysis, management consulting, or decision support

consumption stage. For instance, and introduced three hardware products in 2014, namely, Youku Router, Youku Box, and Tudoupai, supporting vertical integration consumption and promoting the transition from content consumption to integration consumption.

From small-grained consumption to large-grained consumption

The granularity of the consumption object at the content consumption stage is the smallest, with information content most consumed. The consumption object at the integration consumption stage includes not only information but also materials and energy, with the consumption granularity larger than that of the content consumption stage. The consumption granularity at the service consumption stage is the largest beyond the reahn of such specific resources as information, materials, and energy generally; given that plenty of human wisdom is incorporated in the consumption object, the granularity is often larger than those of tire preceding two stages.

From passive consumption to active consumption

Passive consumption dominates the content consumption stage where the representations of information proactivity are complex. The integration consumption stage is often a passive consumption process from the perspective of information consumption; that is, information content is passively consumed during the consumption of material or energy resources. For example, during the consumption of a hardware product, information content bound to the product is passively consumed. However, the service consumption stage often involves highly active

The basic theory of industry development 45 consumption; the service provider needs to tailor high-quality targeted services to consumers’ individualized requirements.

From direct consumption to indirect consumption

Direct information consumption dominates the content consumption stage, while indirect consumption controls the integration consumption stage. At the service consumption stage, consumers do not consume the original content of information (primary information) directly but consume processed information.

From mass consumption to personalized consumption

Consumption by experiencing or subscription serves as the main consumption mode in the content consumption stage, while vertical integration consumption is applied to the integration consumption stage. Service consumption is a process of consumption guided by personalized customization.

From the evolution process of information consumption, content consumption and service consumption are the early stage and the advanced stage of information consumption, respectively, while integration consumption is the key stage of information consumption. Without integration consumption, it is hard for information consumption to evolve from the content consumption stage to the service consumption stage.

Policy demand features

The previous features of information consumption make special requirements on tire setting of policies on the information resource industry. Content consumption is the basis for evolution of information consumption and determines the fundamental impetus to the whole information consumption market. However, characterized with a short life cycle, high cost, uncertainty, and many influencing factors, content consumption evolves into integration consumption with difficulty. Take consumption of book information as an example. Content consumption of a few books evolves into integration consumption. For instance, Harry Potter drives a huge industrial chain of integration consumption, including films, animation, games, toys, daily necessities, and tourism. Evolution from content consumption into integration consumption is a value-added process of information content, expanding the related industry scope and being the key link of realizing information service consumption. In terms of information consumption, the following three issues must be paid attention to for the setting of policies on the information resource industry.

Protecting rights and interests of the information content provider

It has become the most prominent challenge in the information consumption field to protect the rights and interests of the information content provider. Positive externality and indirect consumption form featured by information consumptionmakes the producer of information content subject to damage, thus leading to a decline in the quantity and quality of content products and substantially impeding the development of the information resource industry. Therefore, it is imperative to protect the rights and interests of the information content provider in terms of policies and management. Take the Chinese network video industry for an example. The copyright of video information is the main bottleneck that hinders the development of integration consumption. To this end, the majority of the network video information service providers adopt the PGC (professional generated content) mode. That is, they change their operation mode of “purchase of copyrighted dr amas” into “self-production of dramas” or into the combination of both, lowering their costs, becoming less dependent on copyright, averting legal risks, and improving their reputation.

Protecting personal privacy of information consumers

Personal privacy protection is possibly the biggest challenge in the information consumption field. Nevertheless, it is hard to directly apply traditional privacy protection technologies to information consumption, and it still takes time to develop a set of brand-new personal privacy protection technologies.15 The multisided market nature and separability of motive from behavior featured by information consumption often result in the bidirectional flow of information or grey deals in information consumption, increasingly aggravating inadvertent collection, trading, or abuse of personal privacy of users. Take the Chinese network video industry for an example. The platforms have begun to improve the value of network video information through UGC (user generated content); however, the excessive capturing and abuse of data on users bring information consumers’ concerns and even damage consumers’ benefits. Therefore, China shall speed up setting policies on protection of consumers’ privacy of information and of information security.

Standardizing the information consumption market order

Market order is a resource allocation status and benefit-based relationship formed during the market-driven allocation of resources, a relationship that embraces harmonious benefit, harmonious relationship, benefit sharing, moderate competition, orderly transactions, and steady structure.16 Passive consumption of information and tight coupling between information consumption and material (or energy) consumption lead to conflict of interests, excessive competition, disorderly transactions, and other new problems in the information consumption market. Though the State and the industry published the Administrative Requirements for Operation of Institutions with Internet TV License (G.B.F.W. Zi No. [181]) and the policy of “one TV drama played on two satellite channels at most,” we find fr om field investigation that the market order of the Chinese network video industry is still disorderly and that there is a lack of self-organized market order. Therefore, the State and the industry should put standardizing the information consumption market order high on the agenda, formulate related rules and regulations, define market participants’ responsibilities, and cultivate a self-organized market order.

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