Four Screens Media

A year long Video Consumer Mapping study, for the Nielsen funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE) and conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD) and Sequent Partners, took a look at how people consumed media by watching their behavior.  The study focused on how consumers are exposed to all media, providing a more balanced view on how much media is consumed by type.  The full press release is here.

The study found that, across all age groups, TV viewing of all  types was the number one medium (here are the TV numbers).


Other findings included the following:

  • On average and across all demographics, computer video averages two minutes (a little more than 0.5 percent) a day.
  • Video media is still consumed primarily by TV in the home (yes, including the 18-24 age range)
  • But the PC based media is changing the media pie – computer use, the second most popular medium, is now ahead of radio (number 3) and print media is fourth place.
  • Consumers don’t seem to be avoiding TV advertisements – viewers were saw 72 minutes of ads and promos a day.

What I did not see was how the use of multi-viewing – watching TV and using PCs at the same time – impacts TV viewing.  However, the evidence seems to be overwhelming that as of today, TV continues to dominate the media landscape.

So why does this study seem to be at odds with the hype about the death of TV?  There are two probable reasons: first, the hype extrapolates from relatively small shifts in behaviour today to forecast major shifts tomorrow.  So, hype may in fact become fact, but it doesn’t reflect today’s reality.  Second, a lot of reports on new media consumption habits focus on just several types of media and rely on people self-reporting their habits (the VCM study used observation of all types of media consumption).  This can skew results.  Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research for Ball State’s CMD, which led the project, found the following:

…people generally cannot report accurately how much time they spend with media…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.

This is not a forward looking study but focuses on what consumers are doing today.  This is critical to consumers as while we want to be prepared for potential shifts in media consumption habits, we need to communicate based on consumer behavior today.