Digital change hits US

07 April 2011

NEW YORK: The growth of smartphones and social networks are "fueling fundamental changes" in popular attitudes and media usage, a US study has argued.

Arbitron and Edison Research surveyed 2,020 people aged from 12 years old upwards, and revealed 98% regularly watch TV, and 88% can access the internet via at least one location.

Respondents reported spending a combined 8 hours 11 minutes using radio, TV and online each day, increasing from 6 hours 50 minutes in 2001.

Some 54% of the panel watch web video, 49% of contributors use YouTube, 36% own a DVR, and 35% employ video-on-demand services.

Looking at social networking, 52% have joined such sites, with 51% having signed up to Facebook, 17% active on MySpace, 9% exploiting LinkedIn and 8% utilising Twitter.

In all, 18% of interviewees – equivalent to 46m people – log on to these portals "several times per day", a 15% improvement compared with 2010.

The proportion of individuals visiting offerings like Facebook through a mobile phone also rose from 32% to 43% year on year.

However, just 25% of consumers currently follow a company or brand on a Web 2.0 property, leaving 75% not engaged with advertisers in this way.

Elsewhere, 31% own a smartphone, more than doubling the total of 14% secured in similar analysis conducted last year.

More specifically, 13% of Americans have a touchphone powered by Google's Android operating system at present, 11% own a BlackBerry and 9% had acquired an iPhone.

Ownership levels peaked at 50% among 25-34 year olds, declining to 45% for 18-24 year olds, and 39% concerning 35-44 year olds.

When given the choice to "eliminate" TV or their smartphone, 58% of subscribers kept the wireless handset, indicating the elevated status these gadgets increasingly enjoy.

Meanwhile, 4% of shoppers have purchased a tablet like Apple's iPad and Motorola's Xoom, a fast acceleration from almost a standing start.

More broadly, the number of people regarding the internet as the "most essential" media format in daily life has climbed from 20% in 2002 to 33% in 2007 to 45% in 2011.

This figure jumped to 62% for 12-34 year olds, measured against 34% when discussing the audience above such an age.

Another 38% of the survey community had streamed web video in the week before the poll, an area only scoring 12% in 2006.

The typical viewer dedicated 3 hours 26 minutes to this pastime every seven days, improving from 2 hours 53 minutes in 2010.

"When you consider the rapid growth in ownership of smartphones in context with the continued rise in the use of social media it becomes increasingly clear that these platforms are fueling fundamental changes in consumer expectations and how they use media," said Bill Rose, Arbitron's svp, marketing.

Upon being asked to name the devices and media channels they "loved", 66% of iPhone users mentioned Apple's smartphone, falling to 53% for the iPad and 49% for Android phones.

DVRs yielded 48%, iPod's logged 46%, the same total as broadband internet, while e-readers received 45%, well ahead of Facebook's 27% and television's 26%.

"Rather than crowding other forms of media off the plate, so to speak, digital media is being consumed simultaneously with offline media, and in venues and opportunities where media might not have been consumed previously," said Tom Webster, president for strategy and marketing at Edison Research.

Data sourced from Aribtron; additional content by Warc staff