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Wednesday, December 08, 2004  

Internet: Browsers also listen, watch and read

The blogger at ITFacts titled his entry about research on use of multiple media "What do people do while watching TV?" I am equally interested in why people choose to engage in other activities while watching television or browsing the Internet. There is new information on the topic from the Simultaneous Media Usage Study. The study was conducted by BIG Research, a marketing information company.

The survey from which the data studied was gathered occurred in March 2003.

This research study is the third in a series of surveys exploring the incidence of simultaneous media usage among a national sample of U.S. consumers. The research is based on 12,320 respondents who were sampled via an online network. The findings show that simultaneous media usage, i.e., multiple exposures to various media forms at a single point in time for the same media consumer, occurs in and among a substantial portion of the U.S. media population. The existence of simultaneous media exposures, created by multi-tasking consumers, is a fact in today's media marketplace.

. . .We define simultaneous media exposure as individual consumers being exposed to more than one media system or approach at a single point in time. In short, it describes the increasingly prevalent consumer activity of multi-tasking, e.g., being on line and watching television at the same time or reading the newspaper while listening to the radio or reading the mail while talking on the telephone.

So, who multi-tasks and how do they do it? According to the study, 50 percent of Americans engage in some other task while accessing the Internet. The most common multiple tasks while browsing the Internet are watching television (34.6 percent), listening to the radio (16.2 percent) and reading the mail (13.4 percent). If occasional use is included, 63.5 percent of respondents watch television and browse the Net simultaneously. Half of those surveyed say they pay equal attention to what they are seeing on the computer screen and the other task. People are more likely to watch television while online than to do so while reading the newspaper. More than 60 percent of the respondents said they either ignore television advertisements or don't give them their full attention, suggesting shifting of focus may occur during commercials.

BIG says that we spend about ten hours each day with different kinds of media. But, if each form of media was given our full attention, there would not be enough time in the day to devote to it. For example, if a heavy user of the Internet, say a blogger, devoted five hours per day to the Net only, he might not spend much time watching television exclusively. BIG concludes that multi-tasking is a way to do several tasks with a divided focus.

The survey found that the peak time for multi-tasking is also the peak time for watching television, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The researchers do not say that the reason people easily mix media exposures is that media are not often compelling. I will subscribe to that theory, however. I suspect that breaking news or a viewer's favorite television program is watched with his full attention. Anchor patter, or a television show that is only mildly interesting, become background noise, while the person enters information into his blog client, downloads music, or reads Netscape News or the New York Times online.

What kind of media user am I? Atypical, I guess. My options for watching television are limited because I gave up cable, which I seldom used, some time ago. I tend to watch the news and a couple favored television dramas. The latter get my full attention. I do watch television and browse the Internet during non-compelling news stories and while late night shows are on. Jimmy Kimmel rarely says anything that merits an unadulterated focus. One reason I know I am atypical is that I have a deep-seated preference for a form of media BIG never mentions -- books. The larger chunk of my media time probably goes to reading them.

Reasonably related

You can download the Simultaneous Media Usage Study in PDF format here.

10:15 PM