Media Metrics: One Medium at a Time

American consumers have a dizzying amount of things to do, both at and away from home. But contrary to what marketers might assume, people aren’t always multitasking their way through each day as they make their individual media choices, according to preliminary data from Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI).

The data are derived from MRI’s first-ever survey to reveal when consumers use media, where they are when they use it, what else they are doing at the time, and how focused they are on a particular medium. Dubbed MediaDay, the complete survey results won’t be available until later this year, but early indications are that many consumers are engaged in one medium at a time, regardless of where they are.

>> The methodology: MediaDay is being conducted via a telephone re-contact of U.S. consumers ages 18-plus who responded to MRI’s Survey of the American Consumer. It will launch with a sample of 8,000 in the first year and will survey 5,000 consumers each year thereafter.

In addition to time-based data on the top five media (TV, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and radio), respondents are being asked about their exposure to outdoor media, viewing/non-viewing of TV commercials on digital video recorders, instant message usage, consumption and creation of blogs, and use of the Internet to download music, movies, and TV programs. Responses are based on behavior the day prior to the interview.

Because MediaDay data will be tied back to respondents’ demographics, product usage, and attitudinal data gathered in Survey of the American Consumer, time-based media behavior can be understood for specific target audiences. Changes in behavior according to season and day of the week can also be studied.

The purpose of MediaDay is to facilitate more precise targeting of consumers by taking into account their daily media behavior. Armed with this insight, media buyers and sellers will be able to conceive better cross-platform communications plans.

>> Early results: Preliminary data based on 1,062 respondents show high media usage. Respondents who watched TV the day before the interview report an average of about five hours of use; radio and Internet users report about three hours of use for each medium; and respondents who read a newspaper or magazine the previous day say they spent about one hour with each medium.

Despite marketers’ concerns about concurrent media use, the vast majority of respondents report they used only one major medium at a time. Furthermore, many respondents report they were engaged in no other activity of any kind while consuming media.

This was particularly true for magazines, TV, and the Internet when they were consumed at home. On the other hand, respondents are more likely to multitask when consuming media away from home, where the most likely activity competing with media usage is “working.” Radio, often described as the ultimate “background” medium, had the fewest (27 percent) non-multitasking listeners.

Although the MediaDay data are preliminary, they are consistent with a pilot study MRI conducted in 2004.

Ted D’Amico is senior vice president-research, and Michal Galin is vice president-research, at Mediamark Research Inc. (,

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