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Multitaskers Dole Out Attention to Media

Posted by Mort Greenberg on February 13, 2008

Multitaskers Dole Out Attention to Media

JANUARY 31, 2008

Consumers manage multiple media.

What else are you doing right now? Are you eating? Listening to the radio? Is there a TV on in the room?Like most media, the Internet is being multitasked more than ever. Multitasking is almost a survival tactic for consumers, who seem to be faced with more media choices every year.

For marketers, it doesn’t seem to be great news. It is harder to rely on consumers’ undivided attention.

The data are clear. Regular simultaneous media consumption for online, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and direct mail is up from 1% to 35%, depending on the medium, according to BIGresearch‘s “Simultaneous Media Survey.”

For marketers, the flip side of multitasking is that the use of one media type does not necessarily preclude the use of another.

More than two out of 10 radio listeners surveyed in December 2007, for instance, went online while the radio was on.

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Media Activities of US Adult Consumers While Simultaneously Listening to the Radio, July & December 2007 (% of respondents)

Three out of 10 newspaper readers surveyed watched TV at the same time, and more than 10% were Web surfing while reading the news.

Media Activities of US Adult Consumers While Simultaneously Reading the Newspaper, July & December 2007 (% of respondents)

Teens have long been able to talk on the phone while listening to the radio and reading a magazine. These days, teen Internet users are likely to juggle their TV viewing with Internet usage, instant messaging, texting or listening to an iPod, according to the August 2007 OTXeCRUSH “Teen Topix” study.

That’s right, a third of Internet-using teens watching TV may be doing so with earphones in. Better pay close attention to the visuals in those ads.

Activities of US Teen Internet Users While Simultaneously Watching TV, August 2007 (% of respondents)

Gary Drenik, president of BIGresearch, noted how new media options affect how consumers make purchasing decisions.

“TV’s influence on consumers to purchase products declined, whereas new media options such as Web radio, satellite radio, instant messaging and blogging all increased,” said Mr. Drenik.

“Consumers seem to be seeking information from digital platforms while TV has traditionally been viewed as a brand building medium, which isn’t providing the requisite information,” he added.

The challenge is to understand how consumers absorb content and marketing messages in a multitasking environment.

“TV and the Internet are frequently multitasked,” said eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “Marketers need to acknowledge that multitasking is taking place, but more critically, they need the measurement tools to understand how simultaneous media exposure impacts traditional measures of brand awareness, recall and purchase intent.”


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