The Online Publishers Association (OPA), in conjunction with Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc., released their Generational Media Study today, finding the Internet has edged out TV as the medium of choice for 18 to 54-year-olds. Further, the Internet ranks highly across generations when compared to more traditional forms of media.
OPA president Michael Zimbalist called the study, the final report in a research series primarily focused on 18 to 34-year-olds, a "bookend on behavior and observations."
Some 45 percent of the 1,235 survey participants indicate the Internet is their top choice for media, followed by TV at 35 percent. Trailing much further behind are books, radio, newspapers, videos/DVDs, video/computer games, and magazines.
"The Internet has become pervasive," said Zimbalist. "If you think about five years ago, it wouldn't be as easy as going into the park and getting Internet access. It's much different from going upstairs, booting up, dialing up."
An Internet preference becomes more pronounced as the study drills down into the generational breaks. Roughly half the youngest survey participants – 18 to 24-year-olds – cite the Internet as their top choice if they had to choose only two media for the rest of the lives; compared to 44 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds, and 43 percent of 35 to 54-year-olds.
On the other side of the media coin, television was the top choice for 39 percent of 35 to 54-year-olds, compared to 37 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds, and just 28 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds.
"You can see that across all generations, the Internet is the medium where they are all spending more time than a year ago," said Zimbalist, referring to the roughly 50 percent across the age groups who say they engaged in the activity more recently.
"About 80 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds regularly use the Internet, considerably higher than any other age group," noted Zimbalist, adding there are striking behavioral similarities across the ages.
The Internet outdistanced magazines for product and music information, but fell way behind TV for viewing video. "The one thing we think is interesting is the head-to-head comparison. The Internet is qualitatively as good at or better than other media," he said.
"Another key finding," Zimbalist added, "is the Internet has become so familiar, it is not a new medium anymore."
Survey participants said they would turn to the Internet first for information about products, hobbies and interests, music, gaming, and entertainment. "People are starting to look at the Internet as fun, not just a purposeful utility. It kind of holds true across the ages," Zimbalist noted.
However, participants report television is their primary source for news and entertainment, but Zimbalist said the norm is for consumers to move back and forth between media. For example, viewers see news on television, then look it up on the Web; or, they avoid waiting on long lines in stores to shop online.
These media usage observations recall findings from an April study the OPA conducted with Greystone Communications. That ethnographic study revealed 18 to 34 year-olds often use media in tandem with one another, alternating between foreground and background consumption.
While not part of the Generational Study, Zimbalist shared the Internet scored the lowest among the other forms of media in regard to attitudes about ads and whether they were noticed. "Advertisers are now paying more attention to the quality of their creative online. We see an uptake in rich media."
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March 19, 2014