Consumers Spend Less Time With Ad-Supported Media, Publishers Will Feel Impact

  • by January 21, 2021
Consumers are spending more time with media, but many of those hours are with channels that don't carry advertising. The shift in media consumption habits has implications for publishers as they seek ways to monetize their content.
The number of hours people spend with ad-supported media fell to an all-time low last year as part of a longer-term trend, Media Daily News, reported this week, citing estimates from PQ Media. The forecast is surprising, considering that people spent more time at home consuming media, and phrases like "I finished Netflix" trended on social networks.

Average time spent with media for U.S. consumers expanded by 2.9% to 73 hours a week last year as people avoided going out. However, the share of time with ad-supported media fell to less than 45%, a low point in data going back almost 20 years. The decline is largely attributable to consumers spending more time with ad-free streaming video services, such as Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max.
The reduced exposure to ad-supported media is a strange paradox, considering how many publishers said they experienced significant growth in web traffic last year. Ad-free media must have seen a bigger jump in time spent among consumers.
For publishers, the reduced time with ad-supported media could make their ad inventory more valuable to marketers. There should be a premium for capturing a viewer's attention and driving a response, especially as demand for media recovers with the economy.
Consumers only have so many hours in the day to spend with media, even if they are streaming Hulu while browsing People magazine and checking Snapchat on a mobile device at the same time. In that environment, any media owner that can deliver those audiences to advertisers has a better chance of monetizing their content.



4 comments about "Consumers Spend Less Time With Ad-Supported Media, Publishers Will Feel Impact".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 21, 2021 at 8:11 a.m.

    Rob, the study broke down the share of time spent with media that rely substantially on ad dollars for their incomes---not the amount of time that those media aggregated nor the amount of time that offers ads. Actually, the amount of time we devote to TV, radio and print media---which have always relied on  ads for much of  their incomes---though print media also garnered substantial subscription incomes---is about the same now as in times past however the number of ads in these media---mainly TV---has more than tripled. Moreover, digital which also relies on ad dollars has simply aded to the amount of time where consumers are exposed to advertising---meaning that there are more ads to see and more venues that sell them than ever before. The problem for individuaL media is not that Americans are shunning ad-supported or ad carrying media but, rather, how to capture their share of ad dollars when so many media platforms are competing for them.

  2. Robert Williams from MediaPost, January 21, 2021 at 9:06 a.m.

    Ed, thanks for those insights!

  3. Gordon Borrell from Borrell Associates, January 21, 2021 at 11:59 a.m.

    What Ed said, and this: The more interesting shift in ad-supported "media" is toward media serving consumers on the lower end of the buying funnel. Ad buyers are less interested in reaching lean-back news and entertainment consumers and more interested in reaching lean-forward wallet-ready consumers.  Hence Google's phenomenal 30%+ share of all US advertising......and of course Amazon's fast-growing 5% share of it. It's why newspapers had it so good for so long.  For several decades, their greatest revenue and profits came from not from ads interspersed among the news columns, but from all those tiny classified ads in the back, where people were leaning forward to look for a car, home, or bicycle, rent an apartment, or find a job.

  4. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, January 21, 2021 at 3:23 p.m.

    Rob and the Media Post team, I have much to say on your commentary but I am limited because of Sweepstakes Today LLC verses Google class action lawsuit.  I will say the ad model for publishers 11 years ago wa far different than what you see today. 11 years ago, you saw far fewer ads per page (APP) than what you see now.  The difference was the publishers were paid much higher rates per ad. Publishers in ad-supported media have to show seemingly countless number of ads per page to support their websites. Worse, I refuse to place meaningless ads like the hot babes in bathing suits and other junkie ads.  This practice not only weakens the website but contributes to degration of the ad industry as a whole. 

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