Media Usage On Rise Due To Multitasking

From day to day, how much content can consumers handle? There must be a limit, but, as new research shows, multichannel multitasking is pushing it higher than ever.

This year alone, the overall time that people spend with media each day will rise from 11 hours and 39 minutes in 2012 to 11 hours and 52 minutes, according to new estimates from eMarketer.

“It’s clear that time spent with media is still increasing as a result of multitasking,” said Clark Fredricksen, vice president and researcher at eMarketer.

Overall, average time spent with digital media per day is expected to surpass TV viewing time for the first time this year. The average adult will spend over 5 hours per day online, on non-voice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, eMarketer estimates -- compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television.

Thanks to mobile, daily TV time will actually be down slightly this year, while digital media consumption will be up 15.8%. Time spent with mobile has come to represent a little more than half of TV’s share of total media time, as well as more than half of digital media time as a whole, eMarketer finds.

“The continued adoption and increasing time spent using portable devices like smartphone and tablets, which are easily used while also consuming TV or radio, supports the idea of continued increases in multitasking,” Fredricksen explained.

But how much content can consumers take? No one knows for sure, but, said Fredricksen, “it would be a surprise if [increases in overall media consumption] didn’t continue into next year.”

“Still, the growth in overall time spent with media is not as fast as last year, so there may be a threshold for consumers’ multitasking ability,” Fredricksen added. “At this point, consumers are shifting behavior across devices so quickly that it’s difficult to say when we’ll reach an equilibrium state.”

The bulk of mobile time is spent on smartphones -- at 1 hour and 7 minutes per day -- but tablets are not far behind. Feature phones account for relatively little time spent on non-voice mobile activities, since few have robust mobile internet capabilities.

To develop its time-spent with media figures, eMarketer said it analyzed more than 400 data points collected from more than 40 research institutions. As a percentage of time spent with all media, eMarketer’s estimate of adults’ average time with TV is roughly in line with other firms’ for this year.

Temkin Group is at the low end of estimates among all adult consumers, while MagnaGlobal and GfK figures are more similar to eMarketer’s.

Estimates of TV time among Web users only are somewhat lower as a share of all media -- with the exception of a USA Touchpoints data point -- suggesting Internet users may devote somewhat less time to TV compared to online media.

2 comments about "Media Usage On Rise Due To Multitasking".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, August 2, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.

    Given that the frontal lobe cerebral cortex is a serial device, only capable of processing one thing at a time, the multitasking argument is a ruse (or delusion). Using some pretty standard tests, I delight in doing classroom demonstrations showing that even young college students cannot do two things at the same time as well (or as quickly) as they can do the same tasks one at a time sequentially.

  2. Gordon Plutsky from 21 Advisors, August 5, 2013 at 9:44 a.m.

    I wrote about this new study, it has big implications for marketers, especially those that depend on advertising. As Douglas points out above, it is very hard to pay attention to two things at once. I'd surmise that that traditional ads will be ignored and skipped as consumers focus on the content they care about.

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