Fickle "Digital Natives" Switch Platforms Every Other Minute

According to a new study from Time Inc. titled "A Biometric Day in the Life" shows how the proliferation of digital devices and platforms would affect the media consumption habits of consumers who grew up with mobile technology as part of their everyday lives ("Digital Natives,") versus those who first learned about mobile technology in their adult lives ("Digital Immigrants"). Digital Natives switch their attention between media platforms (i.e. TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms) 27 times per hour, about every other minute!

Because Digital Natives spend more time using multiple media platforms simultaneously, their emotional engagement with content is constrained. They experience fewer highs and lows of emotional response and as a result. Digital Natives more frequently use media to regulate their mood; as soon as they grow tired or bored, they turn their attention to something new.

At home, Digital Natives take their devices from room to room with them (65% vs. 41% for Digital Immigrants), rarely more than an arm's length away from their smartphones making switching platforms even easier.

54% of Digital Natives say "I prefer texting people rather than talking to them" compared with 28% of Digital immigrants, a significant indicator of how marketers and content creators need to communicate with them, says the report.

One major implication of these findings is that Digital Immigrants are intuitively linear, they want to see a beginning, middle, and end to stories. For Natives, stories still need a beginning, middle and end, but they will accept it in any order. Digital Natives are subconsciously switching between platforms and can pick up different pieces of a story from different mediums in any order.

Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and Chief Scientist, Innerscope Research, observed that "This study strongly suggests... patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption... rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans... storytellers and marketers in this digital age will... face an increasingly complex environment with a higher bar for engaging an audience of consumers... “

Betsy Frank, Chief Research & Insights Officer for Time Inc., concludes "... to keep Digital Natives engaged, content creators and marketers need to think differently... grabbing them... is essential, as is content they can snack on... offering multiple access points to every story."

And, Marketing Profs, reporting on the study, found that Natives divide their time equally between digital (49%) and non-digital media (51%), whereas Immigrants spend most of their time with non-digital media (68%).

Digital Natives spend more time than Immigrants engaging with social media and text messaging: 

  • 85% of Natives send or receive text messages on a typical day (i.e., during the previous day), compared with 52% of Immigrants
  • 80% of Natives send or used Facebook at least once during the previous day, compared with 57% of Immigrants  

Use of Digital Media (Previous Day; At Least Once)


% of Respondents

Used Media Previous Day

Digital Natives


Checked personal email



Checked news or weather online



Made or received calls on mobile phone



Sent or received text messages



Checked Facebook



Checked Twitter



Checked news or weather on TV



Used home phone



Source: TimeInc, April 2012

For additional information from Time, Inc, please visit here.


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