Commentary

Who's Streaming Now?

Shortly after my last column on rich media search, two separate studies of online music and video usage were published, oddly enough on the same day. Taken together the two reports paint a disturbing picture for mass media advertisers, especially those trying to reach anyone male, young, or affluent.

One study came from The Pew Internet & American Life Project and deals with music and video downloading. Timed to coincide with the Supreme Court's hearing on MGM v. Grokster, much of the data dealt with user opinions about file sharing. Even for those of us not watching the case closely, there was some data worth noting.

Even more interesting is the Arbitron/Edison Media Research report on internet and multimedia, the thirteenth in its series. In addition to updated audio and video stats, much of the report deals with what it dubs the On-Demand Media Consumer, which should give pause to anyone who depends on the television industry for a living.

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At first glance the two reports seem to have glaring variances in their numbers. For example, Pew Internet claims 36 million Americans report ever downloading music or video files to their computer. This compares with Arbitron/Edison estimates of 106 million who have ever watched or listened online (or some 55 million in the last 30 days).

The discrepancies stem from definitions. Pew focused on downloading music or video, while Arbitron/Edison focused on streaming audio or video. The two reports have more agreement when it comes to what online audio and video users look like.

Pew reports likely music downloaders are male (25% vs. 19% female), young (40% of 18-29 year olds vs. 18% of 30-49, 13% of 50-64, and 6% of 65 and over), and have a high speed connection (29% have broadband). Video downloaders skew even more male (20% vs. 11%), young (25% of 18-29 year olds), and have a high speed connection (20% of broadband users).

When it comes to audio streaming, Arbitron/Edison finds that 36 percent of Americans have ever streamed and 20 million streamed last week. Most cite the ability to "listen to content not found elsewhere" as their top reason for streaming. Interestingly, 46 percent report having listened to streaming audio while shopping online. And streamers are twice as likely to have bought online in the past month as non-streamers (66% vs. 28%).

Perhaps your ecommerce site should be serving up its own soundtrack, or buying ads on Internet radio. To plan such a media buy you don't need to look far. The top five Internet radio brands (AOL Radio Network, Yahoo! Music, MSN Radio, WindowsMedia.com, and Live365) account for one in four audio streamers.

Over the last five years the percentage of Americans who have viewed Internet video has doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent according to Arbitron/Edison. News clips, movie trailers, and music videos are the three most popular forms of programming.

Like Pew, Arbitron/Edison finds audio and video streamers to be young (62% 25-54 years old), male (55% vs. 45%), educated (61% graduated college), affluent (18% with household income over $100,000), and high speed users (65% have broadband).

Additionally, Arbitron/Edison reports that affluent households (those with income over $100,000) are three times more likely than average households to own a handheld wireless e-mail device such as a Blackberry or Treo. Nearly one-third of affluents have two or more "on-demand" media devices such as a Tivo, iPod, or a portable DVD player.

Together the data paints a vivid picture. Three of the most sought after audiences in America (namely anyone male, young, or affluent) are likely consuming audio and video online. So whether you're marketing consumer goods to youth, automobiles to men, or retirement planning to the affluent, you better start streaming.

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