Editor’s note: John Bremer is group chief research and strategy officer at research company Toluna, Wilton, Conn.
It almost goes without saying in the age of digital/social media but I’m going to say it anyway: The way and frequency with which media is consumed has changed dramatically, and those changes will continue to evolve over time. As market researchers, it’s our job to understand how marketing/advertising messages need to be constructed and delivered to reach the right audiences, with the right messages and at the right time. While behavior around media consumption has changed, our role as advisers and guides has not.
We recently conducted a survey of a representative sample of adults in both the U.S. and U.K. to determine exactly how media consumption patterns have changed.*
Not surprisingly, we discovered that people are consuming media differently than they had just a year ago, and that they are using a variety of devices to conduct an ever-expanding list of activities. Also probably not surprisingly, variations in consumption patterns are impacted more by age than any other demographic factor.
Technology and social media are impacting our lives
People are using the Internet and devices more than they had just a few months ago. PC’s remain the most frequently used device (79 percent), followed by laptops (73 percent) and then smartphones (55 percent). Tablets use came in at 46 percent. Seventy-three percent of adults access social media regularly, and 71 percent of those that do, do so using multiple devices. Interestingly, we’ve also found that with the exception of smart TV Internet users (23 percent of respondents), those that engage in the most activity across all platforms, tend to engage in the most the activity on each individual platform as well, so activity begets activity. Further, we’ve found that the more you do within a platform, and across a platform, the happier people tend to be.
There can be a point where consumption can be a bit obsessive. We found that there was a subset of those studied that are always on. Two-thirds of smartphone owners sleep with their phone by their bed. One-third of those who sleep with their phone by their bed wake up in the middle of the night to check the phone!
What does this mean for us as marketers and market researchers? People are online. They are engaged but engaged in more and different types of activities than ever before, and they likely have different levels of receptivity to messaging. We need to reach people in more complex ways and be cognizant that they’re not always going to see the messages we’re presenting to them (specifically those that wake up to check their phone – I hope).
We found that people between 18 and 24 years old use their smartphones for far more activities than their counterparts in the 35+ group, while still spending some time on PCs and laptops to surf the Web or watch TV shows and movies. This age group (let’s refer to them as youngsters) typically use smartphones for accessing social media, reading the news, searching contact details, watching video clips, banking and listening to music.
They consume more media overall (eight hours and 25 minutes as compared to seven hours and 54 minutes for the 35+) each day but almost an hour less watching TV. They swap this for more time on social media and surfing the Web.
Those in the 35+ age group are also consuming media differently. Further, we anticipate that they will adopt behaviors that are similar to youngsters with regard to their online behaviors (as they always do). As of now, activities like banking, using social media, watching television shows and general Web surfing are typically done via laptop or PC as opposed to a smartphone.
The study looked a bit more deeply into the possibility for media addiction. We included a battery of questions created by psychologists at East Carolina University, coupling behavioral and attitudinal indicators. Of 18-to-34-year-olds, 30 percent seemed potentially addicted to media consumption, while 18.9 percent of 35-to-54-year-olds could be considered addicts. Only 8.6 percent of respondents that were 55+ could be considered addicts. Addiction is a concern for many reasons for us in the market research industry. As we mentioned earlier, we felt that addicts (those that check their phone by their bedside likely included) were less likely to be receptive to advertising messages (Figure 2).
It’s clear that marketers are aiming at a moving target. Younger people consume more media differently, and as a result, are less tuned-in to advertising messages. Not only do marketers have the challenge of determining how best to reach consumers, and make their messages relevant, they need to realize that cutting through the clutter is not an easy task.
For our part, as market researchers, we need to offer holistic media measurement solutions, in addition to insights about the landscape as a whole, as media consumption changes are occurring in almost real-time. To that end, marketing must become more and more individualized. Market researchers can create more sophisticated segmentation aimed at reaching individuals on a more personal level. That’s how we can best help our clients understand and better deal with changing patterns in media consumption.
*The survey used the Toluna QuickSurveys platform, with data weighted with respect to the following demographic variables: age, gender, region and income.