Commentary

Read This, I Promise It Will Be The Best Way You Can Spend Your Time Today

This is one of those "RTBlogs" that actually lives up to its name, meaning, it's about time. The most-real time imaginable. How we feel and think about it. How we experience it. And how we value it.

It's something I think about all the time, and the older I get, the more important it becomes to me.

It's actually the reason I got interested in media in the first place. Long before I even started covering it as a journalist, I became obsessed with the notion of media and how it relates to time. How it enables us to actually conceptualize it. And increasingly, how it lets us spend it. Or waste it.

So when I received a new study from Publicis Media this week uncovering some new insights about that, I had to spend some time reading and thinking about it. The result is this column.

The study is published in a new report entitled, "The Great Re-Evaluation," and 12 of its 71 pages are devoted to a section about how time. Specifically, how we are "reimagining" it.

The report draws from a series of in-depth qualitative interviews, as well as a quantitative survey of 2,114 U.S. adults conducted in July 2021 about how they have been reevaluating many parts of their lives because of the events of the past several years. The COVID-19 pandemic, obviously, but also the simultaneous movements of social unrest and social change, as well as "changing political dynamics."

And yes, many researchers -- including some great studies from other agencies (most notably, Mindshare) -- have been tracking much of the reevaluation, but the Publicis Media team makes a point out of labeling its new report with a new-and-improved tagline: "#notanotherpostCOVIDresearch."

As someone who has reviewed umpteen pre-, post and everything in-between COVID reports, I will say this one is a little different, because of it's focus on time. Not just in the section focusing on it, but as the underlying theme throughout it, because I think we all realize by now is that what these events have done, is force us to rethink time altogether.

Whether it is the industrial insight that the first year of COVID accelerated "digital transformation" by many years for most businesses, or consumer insights like the ones uncovered by Mindshare, Ipsos and others that people were shifting how they used their time, especially when it relates to media.

"Think about this," Nielsen Chief Data & Research Officer Mainak Mazumdar said during a panel discussion at the IAB conference this week, noting that "one third" of al TV viewing is now done via streaming. "And that has increased over COVID from 5% or 6%."

Of course, it will take some time before we understand how sustainable these changes in people's behavioral patterns -- using media and otherwise -- actually are, but I think the consensus is that the world has gone through one of its meta shifts, and humanity is now fundamentally different coming out of it.

One of the reasons is that it's not just because of an infectious disease, though given the fact that COVID-19 is now endemic, and no longer just a pandemic -- and that other similar plagues are likely in our future -- those lifestyle and workstyle changes are, in my opinion, a permanent shift.

As someone who has spent most of my professional life commuting a ridiculously long distance from home to work, I can understand why so many people would embrace the opportunity for some of these changes. Back in the 1980s, while working at Marketing & Media Decisions magazine and covering this new consumer home technology called "fax machines," I began thinking that new technologies would enable people to work more remotely and more productively over time. I even began outlining a new magazine I thought about launching that would focus on how technology would enable new kinds of work culture -- not just working from home, which might have seemed obvious, but the blurring and blending of work/personal time and space -- and what the ramifications of that would be.

What I didn't anticipate was the unintended consequence that these new technologies wouldn't just enable us to time-shift and place-shift where and how we worked, but that it would obliterate the line separating work from non-working time. Personally, I don't necessarily regret that, because I happen to love working, and love the fact that I can be much more fluid in when, where and how I do that.

I've also been lucky to work in a profession and to have a boss that enabled me to manage how I did it flexibly, so long as I was able to demonstrate my productivity at "the end of the day."

So the truth is, that I personally, and to a large extend MediaPost overall, was not dramatically impacted by work-from-home lockdowns, etc., but I was struck about the way it affected many of the people and organizations we covered. And how much of those early COVID conversations were about how the companies and organizations we cover were adapting to those changes. They still are. And I suspect, will be for some time to come.

And since we're talking about time, let me not waste any more of yours and get to Publicis Media's points on how we are reimagining it.

I wish I could publish it in its entirety here for you, but I don't have that authorization, so I'd recommend you contact the agency directly to get a copy. But here are a few of the highlights.

  • Nearly half of Americans (47%) feel the pandemic has made them "more precious" with how they spend their time.
  • Two-in-five (39%) say it has changed the way they spend their time "for the better."
  • Not surprisingly, most Americans plan on spending even more of their time at home, outside in nature, and (to Nielsen's Mazumdar's point) streaming TV/movies.
  • Americans plan to spend less time on apps, watching/creating videos, and checking social media.

So there, those are the highlights. And I hope you'll consider the time I just saved you reading 71-page report another gift from me to you.

Some of you may recall that I offered you a gift at the beginning of this year via personal blog I launched. One of the posts is about the time I invented a time machine. If you read it, it will show you how you can make your own. The machine won't let you actually travel through it -- at least not backwards -- but it will enable you to think differently about how you spend it.

Lastly, I want to thank those of you who saved me some time by helping me move up Coinbase's NFT Marketplace wait list, which I plan to use to create an NFT version of "RTBlog." And for those of you who have been thinking about doing so, you still have time to do it. Just click here.

2 comments about "Read This, I Promise It Will Be The Best Way You Can Spend Your Time Today".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, February 15, 2022 at 10:51 a.m.

    What people plan to do and what they actually do are two different things.  Did they ask the 39% who said that they changed what specific things they were doing?  Asking general questions seldom yields accurate results

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, February 15, 2022 at 11:18 a.m.

    @PJLehrer: Re. asking people questions, you're right. But it's not as if you can scale an observational study, and I don't even know what kind of meta data you'd analyze to uncover those kinds of changes? I think the Publicis Media team used a combination of qual and quant and then applied their own judgement to the analysis. I'm no saying it's empirical, but it is interesting and meets my gut that the pandemic has increased the perceived value of time for some people.

    Thanks for taking some of yours to share this.

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