Consumers Now Spend 50% of Their Day With Media

In the 1950’s and 1960’s radio and television broadcasters and publishers could never imagine a public whose appetite for what they do would be so great that it consumed half of their waking hours.

Today we have evidence that the Internet, cell phones, Apple and social networking have created addicts out of people of all ages.

In fact, all of this growth in media consumption has happened within the last two years and far exceeds media demand for three decades prior.

There are hard cold facts to back it up.

A new Ipsos OTX study of 7,000 online consumers spanning a wide age range of between 13 and 74 confirms that among those surveyed people are now spending half of all their waking hours with media and have increased their media consumption by a whopping hour a day over the past two years.

To put that in perspective, they spend more time consuming media than working or sleeping.

What’s more, eliminate the 74 year olds from the study and focus on the younger demographics and the media consumption number would likely be over 50%.

I want to take a look at the ramifications for content providers, but first let’s just put the facts in perspective:

• 24% of those 7,000 surveyed own a web-enabled smartphone as cellphone ownership declines from 81% to 65% since last year. Obviously, you see why I have proclaimed this decade the decade of the mobile Internet. Consumers always show us the way if we will but observe their habits.

• TV, an industry that I warned is next to feel radio’s generational growing pains, is in big trouble. As of this writing, about 33% of primetime TV viewership takes place online. What’s worse is the TV industry thinks selling short ads is the answer and fails to understand what would make a more profitable subscription model work. Watching TV is now influenced by TiVo and DVRs as well as online video – an increase of 49% over last year.

• Social networking sites – the kind you and I have discussed here in this space every week – are driving the consumer appetite for all kinds of media. Traditional media execs have a hard time swallowing the concept that Facebook visits, game playing and even texting are their competitors.

One more thing.

This survey was conducted only a couple weeks into the start of the iPad era. One could probably assume that the iPad sales that ensued and the addiction that usually results will help create a nation of media zombies who are always connected and rarely engaged in what I call the analog world. This has serious sociological repercussions most of which Steve Jobs and media executives could care less about.

Light-emitting devices such as computer screens, cell phones and iPads disrupt sleep patterns which eventually lead to a decrease in melatonin that promotes healthful sleep and produces Serotonin that affects our moods. Antidepressants are often used to increase Serotonin in depressed individuals. How will such rabid media use affect society? I’m interested in this and if you are we’ll revisit the topic another time.

Back to the 50’s and 60’s.

Imagine if a radio program director back then could find a way to hook their listeners up to a transistor radio and have them communicate back and forth, never turn it off and have a direct channel into their psyche.

That’s what we have today.

We thought that Clear Channel was the ultimate neurotransmitter and that network television was the medium civilization could not live without.

But not so anymore.

Our lives may have been changed more by Apple than any politician, mentor, teacher, role model or scientific advance because Apple makes the devices we crave and feeds the need for content through its iTunes store. Other electronics firms and cell carriers then follow and the trend proliferates.

So let me lay it all out for media companies and future media entrepreneurs in content and music:

1. The new gold standard is 30 minutes -- if that. You’ll have to make your content ready to be interrupted or it will be discarded by a distracted consumer.

2. Someday soon, all content will be offered up in modules – short models (read number 1 above). Consumers will have to choose whether they want to hear a personality’s bits divided into options and then decide which ones to hear on-demand. It’s now about the sum of the parts – not the whole.

3. Commercials as we know them are dead. So are print and Internet ads, but don’t tell Google – a traditional media company if there was ever one disguised in new age concepts. Social networking will track down consumers so you had best work on that concept rather than broadcasting messages consumers will increasingly ignore. Pandora can reach you in Dover, Delaware on your mobile device.

4. Everything you do will have to contain video, audio and text.

We are moving to a world where there will be no more television, radio or publishing as we have known it.

The rules are changing.

The question is -- do you want to stay ahead of these rapid consumer changes or try to grow the status quo and put major media businesses in peril by the time next year's statistics will become more compelling?

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