All Forms of Media Going Strong

It’s called the MTV Generation, and it’s characterized by short attention spans, a desire to be the first to try new things, and the need to be totally hip. With new entertainment options such as PCs, the Internet, PDAs, and DVDs springing up, you’d think something has to give. How many toys can fit in a 24-hour day? According to one study, there’s room for all of them.

The Third Annual MTV Networks/Viacom Study of Media, Entertainment, and Leisure Time found that consumers are using all the new toys, and aren’t dropping any of the old ones. They’re simply extending their day from 24 hours to 30 hours by multitasking — in other words, new entertainment options are being incorporated into people’s everyday lives while traditional entertainment options are being used simultaneously.

The study also found that concerns about Internet use putting an end to social interaction are unfounded. Rather, Americans of all ages are discovering new forms of social interaction.

The MTV/Viacom study had 4,070 Americans age 4 to 70 fill out a questionnaire and a 24-hour time-use diary to keep track of how they spend their time. “This year’s findings remind us that human beings are remarkably adaptable and ingenious creatures,” said Betsy Frank, Executive VP of Research and Planning at MTV Networks. “We have figured out a way to lengthen our day by six hours. Rather than making trade-offs between different media options, Americans are finding ways to incorporate new forms of media into their lives without sacrificing the things they already love to do. This multi-taking trend reflects what we call ‘behavioral convergence’ — people acting as if their media platforms have already converged even though the technology isn’t there yet.”

Thanks to multi-tasking, the study found respondents are able to fit 11 hours of leisure-time activities into seven hours of actual leisure time, and 7.5 hours of time spent with media into 4.5 hours of actual time. The heaviest multi-taskers are between the ages of 12 and 34, with adults, in general, multi-tasking slightly more than younger respondents.

This means that TV is still going strong, despite predictions that PCs and the Internet are cannibalizing its audience. Two-thirds of Americans’ seven hours of leisure time per day is devoted to in-home media, and two-thirds of in-home media time (3.2 hours) is devoted to watching television. In fact, the survey found more Americans are watching TV on a typical day than there were in 1998 (86 percent vs. 84 percent in 1998).

But the steady size of the TV audience doesn’t mean computers aren’t invading the American home. The survey found that more than 60 percent of American homes have a PC, while nearly 50 percent have Internet access. E-commerce is one of the fastest growing uses for PCs, according to the study. Both children and adults use the PC for getting news, weather, sports, and product information, but email and communicating with others over the Net are the primary online activities.

The use of media by Internet users is not much different from that of non-Internet users, the study found. It also found that TV viewing does not decline with increased time on the Internet. The evidence points toward the two media working together. According to the study, more than one-third of Americans now have a TV in the same room as the PC. Nearly 30 percent of the respondents claim to have visited a Web site they saw on TV, while 25 percent said they go online while watching TV.

Heavy Internet users, however, are having some trouble fitting everything into a 24-hour (or 30-hour) day. They report taking part less frequently in away-from-home, non-media leisure activities, including sports, attending the theater or the opera, or visiting amusement parks.

The study wouldn’t be MTV without looking at music’s role in all of this. The study found that heavy Internet users are more likely to watch music videos, listen tomusic, and download music from the Web than light or average Internet users. In fact, music may be the one form of entertainment in which consumers appear to be making the most one-to-one tradeoffs between mediums.

“This study suggests that the media industry may have been looking for convergence in all the wrong places,” Frank said. “People have been holding their breath for the convergence of television and the computer. But music may well be a better model for convergence than TV.”

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