Hey, On-Demand Media Consumer! (Yeah, You)
By virtue of the fact that you're here and reading this, you are probably a "heavy on-demand media consumer," which means that you are part of the 21 percent of Americans whose attention every media company in the country is now scheming to grab.
One of the most expansive studies to date of U.S. media habits is just out, a product of Edison Media Research and Arbitron, the radio ratings company, and the survey portrays an even faster and more thoroughgoing change in how we use our time than previous reports showed.
Check out these highlights:
--A third of U.S. homes now have more than one computer. Eight years ago, fewer than half of households had even one.
--Among 12- to 17-year-olds, ownership of an iPod or similar device shot up from 27 percent to 42 percent in the past year.
--Asked to choose between never using the Internet or never watching TV, four in 10 respondents would kiss television goodbye. Among 12- to 34-year-olds, that number shoots up above 50 percent.
--One third of those surveyed have watched video on demand through cable or satellite TV, and 27 percent have watched a TV series on DVD.
The survey measured how much people "love" their gadgets and iPods came out on top, with 45 percent of owners professing "love" for their music machine, edging broadband Internet access (41 percent). The next batch of beloved devices were high-definition TV (34 percent), satellite radio (33 percent) and TiVo (32 percent.) Other stuff lagged further behind--satellite TV, Blackberrys, local radio, cable TV and web radio and video.
My big question about all this has long been, Where do folks find the time? Answer: They're spending less time with old media: The biggest loser is TV--33 percent of those surveyed said they are spending less time watching TV because they're on the web. Thirty percent said they read fewer magazines because of their online interests; an equal number said they are spending less time reading print versions of newspapers. And 19 percent said their AM/FM radio listening is down because of the web. But remember, this is the multi-tasking era--a quarter of the respondents said they often are on the web and watching TV at the same time.
On another topic we've batted around here on the big blog, the poll found an even split on whether network TV programming should face restrictions on the fare they broadcast: Fifty percent said the nets should be allowed to show whatever they want, while 48 percent disagreed. (An almost identical split showed up on whether network fare is "too dirty and explicit for your taste.")
Here's one finding that surprised me, mainly because I'm too dim to know if I even have access to video on demand on my cable service: Far more Americans have watched movies on demand via their cable system than have watched video on the Internet. I thought for sure that result would be the other way around, if only because you have to pay extra for movies on demand via cable, while the Internet video is often free. But of course there's a one-word explanation for the greater popularity of the cable video, and it starts with P and ends with O-R-N. (I once spoke to a media analyst type who argued that computers will finally displace TV from its central place in American pop culture only when most folks have computers in their bedrooms rather than the den, kitchen, or living room.)
Another surprise: Twice as many Americans have listened to Internet radio in the past month as subscribe to a DVD rental service such as Netflix or Blockbuster Online. Internet radio, like podcasting, is a medium that got a big initial splash and then settled into a slower pace of growth than some of the insanely fast-growing technologies of this era, such as the DVD, TiVo and satellite radio. But like all of these newfangled media, Internet radio is booming among the 34-and-under crowd. Still, it's something that most users are just playing around with; it's clearly not doing traditional over-the-air radio stations much good--usage of their online streaming is low and growing only modestly. This could have something to do with the fact that most broadcast radio stations, as the common phrase has it, suck.
Also interesting: Almost half of those who buy music online listen to their audio files more often on their computer than on a portable player such as an iPod.
Finally, who are these heavy on-demand media consumers? We're disproportionately male, black, affluent, and in the 25-44 age range.
What does it all mean? Advertising-supported media are in a bit of a panic, because it's clear that Americans are eagerly taking advantage of any technology that allows time-shifting and the ability to skip ads. So we'll see ever more advertising insinuating itself into the content that we've decided to watch without ads. And the popular culture will become ever more atomized and disparate, which is both good (more opportunities for high quality fare to find an audience) and bad (it will become much harder to create and maintain a civil society with shared values and knowledge.)
But enough of this--you're a heavy on-demand media consumer, and you're demanding something else. Go, forage in the electronic wilds.
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