Simultaneous Research Study Reveals Consumers Buzz Most Over Word-Of-Mouth, Not Ads

American consumers continue to be pulled in more media directions as the number of options - including new, consumer-generated ones - continues to proliferate. That's the conclusion of the ninth edition of the Simultaneous Media Usage Study, released Thursday by syndicated research firm BIGresearch. The study, based on a poll of 15,000 consumers, finds that more than two-thirds use other media while watching TV (67.9%), reading newspapers (68.9%) and browsing online (70.7%). The radio still has the least amount of simultaneous media usage (56.4% of respondents), possibly because a significant amount of radio listening occurs in cars during drive time and in other mobile situations.

The findings are consistent with those of other simultaneous media usage studies, including Ball State University's famed Middletown Studies, and Knowledge Networks/SRI's Multimedia Mentor research. Recently, the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence commissioned Ball State to conduct a new study to understand how people consume media.

The BIGresearch data also suggests shifts taking place in the role of media in terms of influencing consumer decisions, at least in terms of how the survey respondents perceive it. Asked which media most influence their purchase decisions for various product categories, the BIGresearch report says, "consumers' choices are rarely in line with advertisers' expenditures."

In fact, the most influential form of media is 100% consumer-generated and one that marketers and agencies have little if any control over: word-of-mouth. While the term has become a catch-all for everything from online buzz, social networking, and even conventional public relations, and even has spawned new marketing services ranging from word-of-mouth monitoring services to viral campaigns, it is still far less manageable than conventional ad-supported media.

Other new research backed by some major ad agencies, especially communications contact studies such as Kantar Research's Compose reports, indicated that word-of-mouth frequently is the single most influential source of consumer decision-making, but it can often simply mean recommendations from friends, families, business colleagues or professional services such as physicians.

In the automotive purchase decisions, for example, BIGresearch found that word-of-mouth was the No. 1 most influential source among 30.4% of respondents, ahead of No. 2 medium broadcast TV (24.1%). Among electronics purchasers, word-of-mouth was cited by 42.6% of respondents vs. 34.1% for No. 2 ranked print journalism ("read an article").

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