So you think you have an ”off” switch?
Humans are good at so many things, but possibly nothing more so than focusing on the bright and deflecting things. It started with fire, which was perhaps looked at late into the night. More lately we’ve stared at TV screens, laptop screens, cell phone screens, GPS navigation screens, game screens and in-store display screens, to name a few. And they are likely to be more engaging than flame.
The average American will, this year, stare at one electrified screen or another for a total of 3,188 hours. That is more than the average adult will sleep. This significant crossover–the triumph of 40 blinks over 40 winks–is notable evidence to the power of media, and how much amazing stuff there is on all those screens.
The most noteworthy thing about electronic media is not just its profusion. It is the way we just devour more of it–all of it. For years, we have heard about the casualty of radio because of television, television because of the Internet, Web surfing because of the mobile Web. You will take in, but that almost nothing seems to get away. Primarily, it does not even go fade.
“There is no single medium we track that is going considerably down,” says Nicholas Covey, a researcher at Nielsen, which tracks consumption of all these media, plus magazines and newspapers. “Everyone wants us to say something is up at the expense of something else. We have to keep reminding them that very little goes away.”
Book reading, he notes, is going up. Even things that seem to die have often just morphed. Printed newspapers and magazines, which still take up about an hour of the average day, are transitioning to the Internet and other platforms (the problem for print media is revenue, not readers.)
Evidently, we seem wired to grasp information, with no craving to stop. That makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint–when would our intimates not have wanted information about where the lion was? But it leaves researchers with a mystery. Where are we exploring the time? “Don’t know,” says Covey. “The clock isn’t getting longer, but people want more.”
The answer may be in our shared victory of viewing over sleep—as stated by the Centers for Disease Control, a lot of of we people are not getting an adequate amount of shut-eye anymore. It’s hard to do, when YouTube is adding up 20 hours of new video every minute–you might miss something.
We consume more information on screens–TV, phone and otherwise–than ever before. It adds up to eight and a half hours a day, and growing. Men and women, young and old, have different styles and habits around their screens, but they all have something in common: Next year they will probably do more of it. Where are we getting the time? Here are some stats from Nielsen, comScore and Forrester Research.
Four Screens (Sort Of)
Our video, audio and reading lives may seem subjugated by the Internet’s movies, music clips and Web sites, but the whole story is somewhat different. A study of the habits of 476 Americans demonstrated that the good old boob tube remains our topmost time suck, overwhelming 309 minutes of the 524 minutes we every day spend on what Nielsen calls the “four screens” of television (including DVDs and games), computers, mobile phones and “other” (GPS devices, video screens in stores and movies). About an hour a day, we are seeing ads on television.
Regardless of media reports representing otherwise, teens are not some new species of media consumers. They average 210 minutes a day on television, not so far off the 230 minutes logged by a 40 year-old. Still, there is some kind of behavior where they go off far from the average, demonstrating the changes that will be baked into their culture as younger people age. The 12 minutes a day they average in text messaging is six times the overall average. They see nine minutes a day of environmental video, the stuff that runs in stores. That is about twice the average seen by adults overall.
The Saga of Multitasking
The more screens we have, the more we look at them. People 65 years old and up may log 421 minutes a day watching television, but they also project the least total screen time (eight hours, 18 minutes). The striking thing is how devoted we are to each device: Just 31% of our media time is synchronized, like texting while watching television. Young people are among the less likely to multitask, with just 23% concurrent use.
Cell Phone Mania
Mobile phones may consume only 20 minutes a day of screen devotion but they get a very prolific calisthenics for that. There are at any rate 1,026 separate devices in this group led by Apple’s iPhone family and RIM’s trendy phones. People are uncompromisingly using the screens in both directions, too: Some 43% of people with smart phones take snaps with them. That is remarkable bearing in mind 60% of people with smart phones also have digital cameras; 26% have two or more.
Customization Varies with the Age
Just as different ages use their screens in a different way they take care of their phones in different ways. Gender matters too: Younger women like to buy their own ringtones, while older men download more mobile phone apps. These stats extend sharper curve than screens in general, however: The median age for mobile media users in the U.S. is 31.6 years old.
The Weather Channel is the most consistently scattered content across the screens of television, computers and mobile devices. An investigation of connected families demonstrated 51% watched WC on TV, 23% go to Weather.com and the balance use a combination. Financial channels were second in terms of balance, followed by sports. Weather is also the second trendiest browsing function on the mobile Web, beaten only by Internet search.
Ooops! It’s 12:00 @ Night
The amount of time we spend each day on media–the four screens, radio, print–raise one simple question: Where are we getting the time to consume all this stuff? After all, we still have jobs, kids, hobbies, exercise and everything else. Media is clearly a powerful attraction, but it is not like it’s injecting more hours into the day. So what is getting cut? None of the survey firms canvassed here–Nielsen, comScore and Forrester Research–could say. In 2008, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave one likely indication: 50 million to 70 million Americans now sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours per night. In one survey, 10% of people report not getting enough sleep even one night of the preceding 30. And maybe you can’t blame them, when there’s all this great stuff to read, hear and watch.
Away from screens, media consumption is still doing pretty well. About 90% of people get some kind of audio in their day, and 77% hear broadcast radio (for an impressive 109 minutes per user). Print, given up for dead by (mostly print) pundits, is seen by 69% of the surveyed public, about the same percentage as Internet. Downside: Print demands 61 minutes a day, while the Internet garners 114 minutes.
Online activity, together with Web surfing, e-mail and instant messaging, may someday confront usual television’s supremacy those things engage in 94 minutes of our day. And, with 98% of respondents in a study of connected homes saying they have an e-mail address, the expansion is likely to go on. Five years ago, broadband connections were in just 43% of the 75 million U.S. homes on the Internet; today 88% of 90 million connected homes have broadband.
I screen, you screen, but nobody screens like adults 45 to 54 years old. Among six age groups between 18 and 65+ years of age, the mid-century mass averaged a striking 9.5 hours a day staring at television, computers, phones and other screens, a full hour more than any other group. The most liable elucidation is the sum of time they spend in a pleasant, well-wired office: This group spends 51 minutes a day on e-mail, contrasted with an average of 37 minutes.