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Trends in Consumers’ Time Spent with Media


Lisa E. Phillips—Senior Analyst

There are only so many hours per day that consumers can spend watching TV, reading newspapers and surfing the internet. But as marketers may suspect, the time devoted to media is undergoing some not-so-subtle changes.

eMarketer recently conducted a meta-analysis of data from dozens of research firms using a variety of methodologies. The result is a series of estimates of how much time consumers spend with all major media, regardless of multitasking or simultaneous usage, from 2008 to 2010. The estimates apply to average media usage of the general public, not solely to the users of each medium.

The average time spent with all major media combined increased from about 10.6 hours in 2008 to 11 hours in 2010, according to eMarketer. TV and video (not including online video) captured the lion’s share of all media time, about 40% each year. The internet’s share of media time increased over the same period, from 21.5% to 23.5%, as did mobile’s share, from 5% to 7.5%. The share of time spent with magazines and newspapers fluctuated between 10% and 7.5%, while radio and all other media—video games, movies in theaters and outdoor media—declined.

To account for multitasking, an hour spent watching TV and surfing the internet was counted as 1 hour for TV plus 1 hour for internet use. Also, use of each medium is discrete: Time spent listening to the radio does not include streaming stations from the internet, for example.

In 2010, consumers spent an average of 4 hours and 24 minutes each day watching TV and video, while being online for 2 hours and 35 minutes. Mobile devices received an average of 50 minutes’ worth of attention every day—the same amount of time allotted to newspapers and magazines combined. eMarketer expects that time spent with mobile devices will continue to increase, most likely taking time away from print media.

In fact, time spent with mobile devices is rising faster than all other media. In 2010, consumers spent 28.2% more time with mobile devices, which covers all mobile activities on all mobile devices. That gain was even higher than the 21.9% growth in 2009. Time spent on the internet showed moderate but steady gains, at more than 6% each year since 2008. All other major media posted declines: TV and video lost 1.1% in 2010, while magazines and newspapers lost 9.1% each. However, as consumers continue to consume more media every day, those losses are not immediately significant.

Marketers need to pay attention to these trends as they project budgets and develop marketing strategies for the coming year—and years. Mobile devices will claim more and more media time per day, while TV, print and radio will slowly lose ground to digital media. Those trends have been most apparent with print media in recent years, but are now beginning to show up in TV and radio usage as well.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the share of time spent with newspapers between 2008 and 2010 fluctuated between 8.5% and 11.5%.

Keep your business ahead of the digital curve. Learn more about becoming an eMarketer Total Access client today.

Check out today’s other article, “Can Consumers Learn to Love Behavioral Targeting?

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