US Statistical Abstract: Time Well Spent?

The U.S. Census Bureau just released their new Statistical Abstact for 2007. In it, they predict the amount of time adults and teens will spend consuming media in various forms:

  • 65 days in front of the TV
  • 41 days listening to radio
  • A little over a week on the Internet in 2007
  • Adults will spend about a week reading a daily newspaper
  • Teens and adults will spend another week listening to recorded music
  • Consumer spending for media is forecasted to be $936.75 per person

What was interesting about this was noticing the gap that still exists between TV and Radio consumption and time spent on the Internet. To me, it’s indicative of the nature of engagement, at least for now.

According to these stats, we will spend 10X the amount of time in front of a television than we will spend in front of a computer cruising the Internet. The media release didn’t elaborate on the nature of time spent on the Internet. Does this mean work time as well?

Given these numbers, one can understand why the lion’s share of ad budgets still go to television, and I expect that TV sales execs will gleefully quote these given every possible opportunity. But consider the following:

  • The consumption of entertainment content online is in it’s infancy. Strike that, it’s actually embroyonic. If YouTube is the barometer of where we’re at, we have an immense way to go. All the hype about online video is still largely centered around viral growth amongst very early adopters who are watching amateur videos less than 3 minutes in length. It’s not the actual current  impact of online video that’s creating buzz, it’s the paradigm shifting that we have to do when we consider the democratization of content creation, the searchability of the digital format and the interactive possibilities that come with the online distribution channel.  All these things speak to a totally new experience. We’re just not there yet.
  • Think about the difference in your engagement level when you’re interacting with the Internet, as opposed to passively watching TV or listening to the radio. Think about how you respond to advertising messaging, especially when it’s relevant to the task you’re pursuing. The influence of this difference in engagement on consumers hasn’t been quantified yet, but at a gut level, we know it should be significant, probably a quantum leap in effectiveness. Actually, the numbers drive this home. In the research that’s been done on the impact of various channels on consumers, the Internet consistently ranks near the top, usually right after word of mouth, and much higher than television. And it has this impact with one tenth of the exposure time.
  • We need time to change our habits. Television watching has been ingrained in our daily routine for decades. Radio for a bit longer. Newspapers for centuries. The Internet is just celebrating its first decade as a widely accessible channel, and high speed access is less than 5 years old. Given that, the one week number is actually quite remarkable.

I’m sure these numbers will be quoted often, and spun in drastically different directions, depending on who’s doing the spinning. At first glance, my thought was “only one week?”. But as I thought about it, the numbers just emphasized the vast potential of online. What will be fascinating is to revisit this in a year’s time and see how these numbers change. In Internet terms, 12 months is an eternity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s