Multitaskers Represent Multiple Threat: Simultaneous Media Usage Reaches New High
A report released Wednesday by The Media Center at the American Press Institute revealed that simultaneous media consumption has increased well beyond what anybody had previously suspected. The study, conducted for The Media Center by BIGresearch in October 2003, found that 70 percent of media users try at one time or another to absorb two or more forms of media at once.
While simultaneous media usage is far from a novelty, the data suggests that it is quickly becoming the norm--and, of course, it goes without saying that the trend portends a handful of new and different annoyances for the media community. If, as the study found, more than 52 percent of newspaper readers are simultaneously watching television, attempting to measure viewership levels will soon become an inexact science (not that it's exactly Ripken-esque in terms of dependability as is).
In a conference call, Media Center co-director Dale Peskin described the study's findings as "startling," and noted their "huge implications for the extensions of platforms." When asked specifically what the study means for advertisers and how they can ensure that they are heard in this kind of media climate, however, Media Center director Andrew Nachison conceded: "We don't have the answers to that yet."
Added Peskin: "On the surface, advertisers may have to be in lots of places to capture the kind of audience they want, or focus on different targets or demographic groups." He noted that the Media Center "[doesn't] want to be just deep thinkers about all of this stuff," and that the organization's goal is to develop actionable plans for dealing with issues such as simultaneous media consumption.
The results of the study underscore what most media folks have long suspected: that radio and television are no longer the absorbing experiences they once were. While listening to the radio, 57.3 percent of consumers are simultaneously online, while 46.9 percent are perusing a newspaper and 17.7 percent are watching TV. Television viewers, on the other hand, tend to be also surfing the Internet (66.2 percent) or reading a newspaper (74.2 percent).
A final finding--and one that seems disparate from the data related to simultaneous media usage--involved the power of various mediums in terms of making purchase decisions. Word of mouth (transmitted via cell phone or instant message) came out on top, trailed by reading a print article, in-store promos, and viewing a broadcast TV ad. "People are informed in many ways, and then they spread this, essentially through talking to each other," Peskin noted.
The Media Center describes its mission as helping media, academic, and business leaders better understand the challenges of an evolving multimedia environment. "We want to expand the discourse about how society is informed in this disconnected world... we look at the media world from the outside in, rather than from the inside out," Peskin said.