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Juggling Act: Audiences Have More Media at Their Disposal and Are Using Them Simultaneously

5 minute read | December 2018

Choice has always been coveted among consumers. When it comes to the media universe, the abundance in devices, services and content has never been more prevalent, which in turn is opening up a complex web of consumption behaviors. With all of this technology at consumers’ literal fingertips, which of these platforms are they focused on?

The answer, in short, is pretty much all of them.

According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, adults in the U.S. spent almost 10 and a half hours a day with media in the second quarter of 2018, even as the effects of seasonality played their typical role. With the vast amount of time Americans spend using their devices throughout the day, it is inevitable that some of this usage is occurring simultaneously. So even though these audiences are dedicating hefty amounts of time to different platforms like live/time-shifted TV (nearly five hours per day), radio (nearly two hours per day), and digital devices (over three and a half hours per day), they’re combining consumption in a multitude of ways.

When looking at the relationship between TV and digital platforms, 45% of respondents watched TV while using digital devices “very often” or “always,” according to a custom survey of Nielsen’s Media Enthusiast Community. Nearly a third reported using both platforms “sometimes,” while only 12% never use both at the same time.

On the other hand, some simultaneous actions likely present a challenge for audiences to process multiple messages at once. For example, audio and TV are less correlated, with only 6% often watching and listening to different content at the same time. And over half never use TV and audio simultaneously at all.

The advent of digital platforms, such as smartphones and tablets, have changed the way consumers interact with and consume media. Specifically, they’re using digital platforms in tandem with TV and audio to augment their overall experience. With the internet and social platforms readily available to consumers, many are favoring distinct digital behaviors to accompany their consumption of TV and audio.

According to the same survey, learning about the content they’re consuming is a popular action, with 71% of respondents having looked up information related to the TV content they were viewing and 51% doing the same for audio.

Meanwhile, marketers and advertisers should be glad to know that 35% of TV viewers and 25% of audio listeners have shopped for the products and services advertised on the main platform. This highlights a need for an omnichannel marketing strategy in the digital age, as well as making sure brand messages lean into click-through conversion.

With digital devices opening up channels of communication, it’s not all that surprising that users are taking advantage of these features when consuming TV and audio content as well. Nearly a third of respondents have emailed, texted or messaged others about the content they’re listening to while 20% have done the same on social media. And these communication behaviors are even more prevalent when consumers are watching TV, as 41% of respondents emailed, texted or messaged others about the TV-content they viewed while 28% wrote or read about it on social media.

An important aspect of understanding consumer behavior isn’t just knowing how consumers are interacting with media, but also when they do so. The second-quarter Nielsen Total Audience Report showed that the bevy of platforms available to consumers are shaping unique trends in audience behavior. Access and convenience are two of the key factors that determine when people consume media at different times, resulting in usage that is not necessarily uniformly distributed throughout the day.

Even in the era of device fragmentation, prime time still reigns supreme. In second-quarter 2018, U.S. adults spent more time on media overall from 9-10 p.m. than any other hour throughout the day, with nearly 38 out of a possible 60 minutes being spent across Live+time-shifted TV, TV-connected devices, radio and digital (computer, smartphone, tablet) during that time.

The 9 p.m. hour also seems to be the sweet spot for TV consumption, as both linear TV and TV-connected device usage peak at that time. Consumers spend well over half of their media consumption for this hour watching linear TV and interacting with TV-connected devices (think playing video games or streaming content through devices such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick or Google Chromecast).

While prime time shows the largest amount of time spent overall with media throughout the day, radio is at its strongest during traditional business hours. Time spent listening to radio remains consistent throughout the morning and into the afternoon, peaks at 12 p.m., and then tapers off at night as consumers are likely settling into their homes after a long day at work. The work setting, which likely has many employees’ eyes focused on things other than a TV screen, provides a key opportunity for people to open their ears to audio instead.

Digital devices in all their ubiquity display consistency for an even longer period of time throughout the day than other devices, with less than a one minute fluctuation in time spent from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Easy access to these devices, regardless of setting, means an increased potential for use. Sleep and the morning routine might not even be immune to the allure of digital device usage—while media consumption is at its lowest in the wee hours of the morning, digital device usage sees an uptick at the 5 a.m. hour, rivaling live/time-shifted TV viewing for the first thing consumers switch on when they wake up.

The evolving landscape continues to shape new media patterns for consumers. Though each platform offers their own distinct advantage for consumers, there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between traditional and digital technologies, whether users are augmenting their linear TV viewing experience with social media posts via their smartphones or even purchasing goods related to a radio advertisement they’re hearing. Regardless, today’s media landscape is keeping consumers engaged on multiple fronts.

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