Screens to the nth: What People are Doing... And Why?

Without indulging your scientific side, and going strictly on your powers of perception, it is clear that we live screen-infused lives.  We also live lives filled with multitasking.  Some of you may say that observations about people who work in media, marketing, and data are skewed toward multiscreen users and multitaskers -- and you would probably be right.  That’s why we talk to consumers regularly.  We seek their input on what they do, buy, think, feel, and so on. We measure their behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, shopping habits, and more.

It is difficult to process all the inputs and mine the insights afforded us by the data-intense environments we work in.  Moreover, with many media behaviors and possible effects to understand along with rapid changes in technology, it gets difficult to develop inputs into what might be just around the corner.  How do we plan for the next big thing?

Along with our partners at IPSOS Media CT, the IAB is fortunate to have HearWatchSay (HWS), a community of 5,000 media-forward consumers.  We speak to them; we show them creative; we survey them.  And, we use our access to the community to take deeper dives into trends found by quantitative research that typically employs samples representative of the general population. HWS is a living laboratory and research tool that permits us to test the predictive power of this kind of research. 

In June at IAB Innovation Days, our premiere Internet Week event, the IAB and IPSOSMediaCT presented “Screens to the nth: What People Are Doing … And Why?”  This report noted that multitasking adds six hours to the 24-hour day, and that this extended day has increased over the last two years, boosted primarily by more media time and more non-leisure activity time.  Moreover, the biggest increment of the increasing time with media is going online. *

In the new 30-and-growing-hour day, multitasking -- specifically media multitasking -- is a fact of life.  Whether watching live TV or DVR, fully two thirds of HWS members in our survey reported that they used another device at least once the last time they watched TV. 

When the activity is related to what’s on TV, multitaskers favor the smartphone.  And the most common activity on their smartphones is communicating about the show itself.  The majority of 18- to 24-year-olds --- nearly three quarters (73%) -- agree that “It’s great to be able to talk about what’s on TV with friends or family who aren’t in the same room with you.”

Using HWS data, we are seeing early signs of tablets being the device of choice for deeper exploration of content, including finding out more about products, brands, etc., mentioned on the show. 

Most people tell us that they are using devices to do things unrelated to what they are watching on TV. The computer is the device of choice, although both smartphones and tablets show high rates of non-related multitasking.  Regardless of what they are doing, consumers believe they are paying attention to what’s on TV.  The predominant activities unrelated to the TV show that’s on are what one would expect: emails, im/chatting, being on Facebook/other social networks.

What are the key takeaways for advertising?

More new and different opportunities for reaching consumers with content, including advertising, are presenting themselves.  We’re beginning to see interest in ads on both primary and secondary screens as part of the multimedia multitasking experience.

The line between content and advertising will continue to blur.

Advertisers and programmers need to stay in touch with audiences:  Know the screens, know the people, know their mindsets and motivations, know how they deploy their time and brain resources.

*Source: IPSOS LMX, a single-source media diary examining when, where and how new and traditional media are consumed, is completed by 7500 online consumers aged 13+, representative of the U.S. Internet population.



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