By James Lewin
Forget worrying about how much video the kids are watching these days on the TV and the Internet – new research shows that Baby Boomers are the biggest couch potatoes/mouse potatoes of all.
A $3.5 million, year-long Video Consumer Mapping (VCM) study found that younger baby boomers (age 45-54) consume the most video media, and confirmed that traditional “live” television remains the proverbial “800-pound gorilla” in the video media arena.
In addition to the revelation that consumers in the 45-54 age group average the most daily screen time (just over 9 1/2 hours), the VCM study also found that:
- Contrary to some recent popular media coverage suggesting that more Americans are rediscovering “free TV” via the Internet, computer video consumption tends to be quite small with an average time of just two minutes a day.
- Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing, even among those ages 18-24. Thus, in the eyes of the researchers, this appears to dispute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (and the next one up, age 25-34) were significant in 2008.
- Computer use has replaced radio as the No. 2 media activity. Radio is now No. 3 and print media fourth.
- TV users were exposed to, on average, 72 minutes per day of TV ads and promos — again dispelling a commonly held belief that modern consumers are channel-hopping or otherwise avoiding most of the advertising in the programming they view.
- Early DVR owners spent much more time with DVR playback than newer DVR owners. At the same time, DVR playback was even more likely than live TV to be the sole medium.
The Video Consumer Mapping information seems to contradict other recent media research that highlights the growth of Internet media, especially among the young. It’s likely that much of this discrepancy is a result of different demographics in the studies.
About The Study
Using handheld smart keyboards equipped with a custom media collector program developed by Ball State, the observers recorded — in 10-second increments — consumer exposure to visual content presented on any of four categories of screens:
- traditional television (including live TV as well as DVD/VCR and DVR playback);
- computer (including Web use, e-mail, instant messaging and stored or streaming video);
- mobile devices such as a Blackberry or iPhone (including Web use, text messaging and mobile video); and
- “all other screens” (including display screens in out-of-home environments, in-cinema movies and other messaging and even GPS navigation units).
All told, the VCM study generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes or a total of 952 observed days. This is the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted.
“What differentiates this study from all other attempts to measure video exposure at the consumer level is its scale, the range of media covered and the fact that it is focused on consumers first and the media second. It’s not a study about TV or the Web or any other medium – it’s about how, where, how often and for how long consumers are exposed to all media,” said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research for Ball State’s CMD, which was selected to lead the project.
An important finding of those earlier efforts, Bloxham explained, concerned the uncertainty of more historical methods of measurement and, in particular, various forms of self-report.
“People generally cannot report accurately how much time they spend with media,” said Bloxham. “Some media tend to be over-reported whereas others tend to be under-reported – sometimes to an alarming extent. Clearly, that kind of variance puts in question one’s ability to draw meaningful conclusions, and it convinced us that the observational method is the only real way to achieve accurate and reliable results.”