US media habits evolve

03 February 2011

NEW YORK: Television remains the favourite medium of US consumers, but the viewing experience is increasingly being integrated with various forms of digital media.

Consultancy Deloitte and research firm the Harrison Group surveyed 2,000 people aged 14–75 years old, in order to gain an insight into how attitudes and behaviours are changing.

When picking their preferred media activity, 71% of Americans selected watching TV, a definition covering exposure to such material on any device.

Linear broadcasting is still the most popular, as 74% of the sample primarily watched in this way, although 37% of 22–27 year olds accessed television content via the web between five and seven times a week.

Elsewhere, 86% of shoppers said TV ads exerted the strongest influence on purchase decisions, followed by online with 50%, magazines' 46%, newspapers' 40% and radio's 27%.

Simultaneous media use is also on the rise, as 75% of interviewees regularly utilise another medium while the television is on.

More specifically, 42% of consumers combined surfing the net with this pastime, falling to 29% for cellphones and other mobile gadgets, and 26% concerning sending instant messages or texts.

As 61% of respondents belong to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, generating online buzz surrounding shows should be of particular interest to TV stations.

"Consumers are not only watching television, they are talking about it, and those conversations are frequently taking place in real-time," said Phil Asmundson, technology, media and telecommunications industry leader at Deloitte.

"By embracing the internet as a platform that encourages audiences to participate in discussions about their favourite programs, television is maintaining its hold on the American public."

"And, because television has embraced the internet and social media so effectively, the traditional television advertising model is alive and well."

Some 46% of individuals polled stated online was their medium of choice.

Currently, 85% of consumers possess a desktop PC, a total standing at 68% for laptops or netbooks, and 41% log on to the web through a mobile phone.

The report added that 33% of American households now own a smartphone, a figure which has surged from 11% three years ago.

A further 40% of contributors not subscribing to an iPhone or equivalent, such as those powered by Google's Android operating system, hoped to buy one in the near future.

In an indication of how this could shape habits, 56% of people owning these handsets and a laptop agreed the smartphone was replacing many roles of these computers, up from 41% three months earlier.

Meanwhile, 17% of the panel preferred smartphones to all competing media, with 9% watching video using this route, 7% reading newspapers and 5% streaming TV shows.

"The growth in the smartphone market over the past few years is having a bigger impact on our lives than anyone might have imagined," said Asmundson.

"As the costs for these types of devices and the wireless services that come with them continue to fall, consumers are starting to shift their behaviour, taking advantage of anywhere, anytime connectivity."

Print media also proved relatively resilient, as the number of participants who enjoyed reading magazines has stayed consistent on 70% since 2007, and 80% of this group still willingly choose physical over digital editions.

A majority also said magazine advertising helped them learn about goods and services for themselves and their family.

Data sourced from Deloitte; additional content by Warc staff