Men, Women, And Media: United by Media, Divided By Content

Last month we explored gender differences in the marketplace, finding that women skew more value-oriented, while men are more likely to be experiencing “frugal fatigue.” This month, we explore gender and media, finding that men and women show comparable (and enthusiastic) media consumption patterns across platforms, but differ more strongly in content preferences. 

Take magazine readership, as revealed last month in a new survey of affluent media use. Both genders are heavily engaged with print magazines, but more women are engaged to a greater extent. Of the 135 reported magazines, 84% of women (vs. 75% of men) read at least one of the titles.  Female magazine readers averaged 17.1 issues from 7.7 titles, roughly 16% more than men. These findings don’t seem to be an artifact of the magazines measured in the study, as other research measuring magazine readership in general (without linking the survey question to specific titles) has also found that women are heavier readers of print magazines.



However, women’s stronger affinity for the print magazine platform is modest compared to many of the large (if highly variable) gender differences in magazine content preferences. Interestingly, some genres showing no gender skew at all.  For example, the two most widely read magazine genres -- travel and news -- are each read by about 54% of Affluent men and women.

At the other extreme, gender skews are strong and predictable for “women’s” magazines, which are read by 71% of women, vs. 31% of men, as well as “men’s” magazines, which are read by 45% of men, vs. 20% of women. (It’s worth pointing out that “women’s” and “men’s” magazines are industry classifications, not ours; it’s also interesting that 20-30% of both genders read magazines largely targeted toward the opposite gender).  

But big gender skews extend beyond men’s and women’s magazines. Women are more than twice as likely as men to read cuisine magazines (52% vs. 23%) and shelter magazines (50% vs. 22%), and almost twice as likely to read magazines focused on fashion, beauty, fitness, health and entertainment. In contrast, men are almost twice as likely to read magazines about science, technology, sports and cars. Some gender stereotypes, it seems, are alive, well and rooted in solid reality.  Mars, meet Venus. And start arguing.

The same pattern extends to other digital media use, which is widespread and growing strongly among both genders.  Affluent men average a few more hours online in a typical week (42.6, vs. 39.5 for women).But the notion of technology as purely a boy’s domain is clearly debunked.  Affluent women are slightly (but consistently) m ore likely than men to own smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. Women are also more likely to have visited many sites, including Facebook (73%, vs. 58% for men) and Pinterest (36%, vs. 9% for men). But as with magazines, the biggest differences are in familiar content areas.  Women are more likely to have visited sites related to cuisine, health and home (as well as discount retailers and coupons, reinforcing the value-orientation highlighted in last month’s article). Men skew more strongly toward sites related to sports, cars, and business.

Television viewership reveals similar patterns. Affluent men watch slightly more television, and are slightly more likely to have watched video via mobile devices, but the differences are modest compared to those seen in content interests. Men watch much more sports, science, documentary/history, action/adventure, and sci-fi. Women lean toward genres of entertainment, celebrities, family-friendly fare, and reality TV.

It is unlikely that gender skews will completely disappear, and that women and men will consume the same content genres at the same rates. But as platform ownership becomes more pervasive across all segments, we are seeing high engagement from both genders across devices and media types. He’s watching on his laptop, she’s reading on her tablet, no one is fighting over the remote.
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