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Newswise — The typical consumer often uses more than one type of media at any given time, preferring to work on the computer while the radio plays or surf the Web as the television blares in the background, says new research by Ball State University.

However, not all ad-supported media are multitasked, also known as concurrent media use (CME), in the same way or to the same extent, according to the university’s latest white paper, “Engaging the Ad-Supported Media.”

The new research produced by Ball State’s Center for Media Design (CMD), compares and contrasts elements of media experiences for the major advertising-based media, including magazines, newspapers, television, radio and the Internet. The findings are based on data collected from about 400 people in Muncie and Indianapolis for 2005’s Middletown Media Studies 2 (MMS2), producing information on more than 5,000 hours of media use.

“We know Americans spend about nine hours daily with radio, television, magazine, newspaper, computer and other media, but looking at media use solely in accumulated total minutes barely scratches the surface of how we use various media,” said Michael Holmes, CMD faculty research fellow and communication studies professor.

“We dug deeper, looking at a variety of issues related to spending time with the media,” he said. “Our findings for concurrent media exposure — what others call media multitasking — varied depending on the media, time of day, day of week and a person’s location.”

The new white paper reveals:
• Television dominates in the home, radio is the main medium in the car and computer usage is common both at work and home.
• Magazines are the medium with the largest proportion of time used at “other” locations, which is due, in part, to print publications found in public places where people wait for service.
• Most people read newspapers in the morning.
• Television dominates as a news source in the early morning; up to 70 percent of participants watch television in the evenings.
• Magazines show heavier readership on Mondays (29.1 percent) and Fridays (34.7 percent), newspaper readership peaks on Sundays and television exposure is lowest on the weekends.
• Participants were observed using all five ad-supported media while involved in everyday life activities. For example, for time spent with television, the top three non-media activities — eating, housework, and work — were relatively equal, together occupying about 19 percent of TV viewing minutes.
• Radio maintained its reputation as a classic background medium, with participants listening as an exclusive activity only 24 percent of the time.
• Almost half of all magazine exposure is experienced with television in the background, while television is the highest-ranked partner for newspapers by average minutes (51.6 percent of all newspaper time).

The study also found that when using more than one medium at once, consumers paid significant attention to magazines. Newspapers ranked a distant second, but held a substantial lead in attracting attention relative to the Internet, radio or television when more than one medium was used.

Thirty-two percent of newspaper minutes and nearly 40 percent of magazine minutes occurred during the same time as day-to-day life activities. About 10 percent of the time consumers were reading newspapers and magazines was also spent eating a meal.

“Ball State’s research findings are good news for magazines and other print media,” said Wayne Eadie, senior vice president of research for the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), which requested CMD expand its analysis. “It tells that when people are reading magazines they pay attention. Unlike other types of media, print is able to keep a person’s primary attention no matter the background noise.”

The white paper’s principal researchers include several faculty from Ball State’s College of Communication, Information, and Media, including Holmes, telecommunications professor Robert Papper and journalism professor Mark Popovich. Mike Bloxham, CMD’s testing center director, is also a research team member. Findings from the research will be used to create a series of reports and white papers in the coming months.

More information about the free white paper and other CMD research is available at

About Ball State University, Center for Media Design and Middletown Media Studies 2

Ball State University, located one hour northeast of Indianapolis in Muncie, Ind., is the third-largest public university in Indiana, with more than 17,700 students.

The Center for Media Design (CMD) is a research and development facility focused on the creation, testing and practical application of digital technologies for business, classroom, home and community.

Middletown Media Studies 2 (MMS2) builds upon Muncie’s reputation as “Middletown America,” a typical community in the United States. Muncie earned this distinction as a result of the Middletown Studies of the 1920s and ’30s by sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd. MMS2 is a follow-up to a 2004 study that found people consume much more media than they say they do.


NewswiseNewswise — The voters of “Middletown USA” have cast their ballots about voting preferences, and — like the presidential election — the results are close. By a slight margin voters prefer to use familiar paper ballots and Internet-based polling systems as compared to recently introduced touch-screen electronic kiosks.

In the days leading up to the Nov. 2 elections, researchers at Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD) surveyed 421 voters in Muncie — commonly referred to as Middletown USA due to sociological studies early last century — to determine if they preferred electronic systems over traditional paper ballots to cast their votes.

Despite the growing trend toward the use of electronic kiosks at the polls, both traditional paper ballots and the Internet were preferred by local voters.

The survey identified respondents’ top choices of voting methods:

• Paper ballot 33 %
• Internet 28 %
• Electronic kiosk 16.4 %
• Television (using remote) 5 %
• Cell phone 3.8 %
• Telephone 2.6 %
• Postal service 2.4%
• PDA 1 %
• No favorite 7.8 %

“We asked people to rank their preferences on the basis that all methods of voting were equally secure and anonymous,” said Mike Bloxham, CMD’s director of testing and assessment. “The fact that paper ballots and Internet voting have won out over kiosks that are actually being deployed suggests the importance of familiarity.”

Kiosks were introduced following the problems arising with paper ballots in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. The federal government spent billions of dollars on technology upgrades only to fuel a new controversy over the reliability and quality of electronic voting kiosks.

“Paper ballots are tried and tested, and four out of five of our respondents said they had access to the Web,” Bloxham said. “So concerns arising from unfamiliarity are unlikely to be an issue. However, most people have not encountered electronic kiosks before, and they may be unfamiliar with those devices.”

Regardless of current preferences, however, 75 percent of respondents believed that adopting more of the electronic voting methods will increase voter turnout, he said.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that would suggest younger people are more inclined to use electronic voting alternatives, there were no significant differences of opinion on the basis of age or any other demographic variable, he said.

Bloxham said that while the results are good news to those advocating using the Internet in future elections, there are potential problems to overcome.

“As more electronic channels are adopted for voting, the issues of usability for different devices and screen sizes become more critical,” he said. “Designing a paper ballot that is easy to use is a big enough challenge, but having to design interfaces that work equally well for all voters —whatever the device — multiplies that challenge many times over.”

About the Center for Media Design
The Center for Media Design is an R&D facility focused on the creation, testing and practical application of digital technologies and content for business, classroom, home and community. The center is part of Ball State’s iCommunication initiative, funded by a $20 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

About Muncie, Indiana
For almost 80 years, Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana, have been referred to as “Middletown.” The name comes from landmark sociological studies done by Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s and 1930s that cast Muncie as the typical American town (or Middletown). In the intervening decades a series of studies has been undertaken that has built upon the original body of work, the most recent of which was the Middletown Media Studies of media consumption and use, which was also funded by the Center for Media Design.

NewsWise -

Newswise — The time-honored, industry standards of telephone surveys and personal diaries fail to completely capture how much media Americans use in their daily lives, information that could have major implications for the media and advertising industries.

Researchers from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design found that media use by adults is more than double the extent reported by standard survey research methods. Called the Middletown Media Studies, the research asked questions and used methods that are more extensive than those found in traditional media-measurement methods.

First, along with the phone surveys and diaries, researchers observed—or shadowed—101 people for a day, from wake up to bed time, and recorded their actual media consumption.

Second, the studies looked at a wide range of media—television, radio, telephone, Internet, books, newspapers, etc.—unlike typical industry surveys that target only one medium.

“We found that phone surveys are largely useless in determining media behavior. You might as well throw darts,” said Bob Papper, a telecommunications professor and study co-author.

That does not mean phone survey research is irrelevant, researchers said. All of the methods have certain weaknesses, and phone surveys provided useful comparisons.

“Phone surveys reflect a person’s perception of their media use but not their actual behavior,” said Michael Holmes, professor of communication studies and a member of the research team. “Diaries give more detail than phone surveys, but we found observation provides much more detail than diaries.”

Television viewing patterns are among the most glaring examples of the limitations of current measuring techniques. Phone survey participants, overall, watch television an average of two hours per day. Diarists logged 4 hours and 38 minutes a day, but those under observation watched 5 hours and 19 minutes per day. That’s a 164 percent difference between phone surveys and observations.

That pattern between the measurement methods held true in most cases (time in minutes).

Media …………… Phone Survey ….. Diary ….. Observation ….. Phone survey to observation difference
Home Computer …… 21 …………….. 52 ……….. 64 ……………… 205%
Online ………………. 29 ……………….. 57 ……….. 78 ……………… 169%
Television ………….. 121 …………….. 278 ………. 319 ……………. 164%
Books ……………….. 18 ……………….. 17…………. 36 ………………100%
Magazines …………. 8 …………………10 ………… 14 ……………… 75%
Radio ……………….. 74 ………………. 132 ………. 129 ………………. 74%
Newspapers ………… 15 ……………… 26 ……….. 17 ……………… 13%

“I think some of our most significant findings involve the complexity of how people really use the media because we are looking at the interrelationships among various media,” Papper said.

The “X” factor: multitasking in a media-rich society

Papper, Holmes and Mark Popovich, a journalism professor, pored over previous studies that looked into the amount of time people simultaneously use multiple media—studies that were mostly based on telephone surveys.

“We suspect people in phone surveys either didn’t or couldn’t accurately answer questions about simultaneous media use,” Holmes said.

The researchers also found diarists tended not to make entries about short-term, repeated media uses, such as making or receiving phone calls, listening to the radio and e-mailing. So when all media were factored in, observers made three times as many notations of media use than consumers logged in their diaries.

“For example, the observation study results suggest that not only did people watch the television programs they logged in their diaries, but they probably also opened the mail, made a telephone call or checked e-mail during a commercial; these uses tend to be omitted from diaries,” Papper said.

The observation results also showed that people spend almost a quarter of their media day using more than one medium at the same time, a figure researchers called “astonishingly high.”

“We are really only beginning to dig into the results on multitasking,” Holmes said. “We intend to develop a clear picture of simultaneous multiple media use and how Americans are responding to the convergence of media technology.”

How the studies were done

The three media usage studies were done in July and August 2003 with people living in “Middletown,” America – Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana. The name comes from landmark sociological studies done by Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s and ’30s that cast Muncie as the typical American town, or “Middletown.”

Along with shadowing 101 people, researchers collected 359 individual diaries. The phone survey of 401 individuals asked questions from various Pew Research Center surveys and the results between the larger national Pew studies and the local phone survey were strikingly similar.

“The research is part of an ongoing program to investigate how the relationship between consumers and different media is changing in the light of advances in technology,” said Mike Bloxham, the center’s director of testing and assessment. “We want to understand the impact on business models, communications and society.”

About Ball State University and the Center for Media Design

Ball State University, located one hour north of Indianapolis in Muncie, Ind., is the third-largest public university in Indiana, with more than 18,300 students. Originally a private teacher training school when it opened in 1899, Ball State became a university in 1965.

The Center for Media Design is an R&D facility focused on the creation, testing and practical application of digital technologies for business, classroom, home and community. The center is part of Ball State’s iCommunication initiative, funded by a $20 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Who Are We

Insight and Research at the Center for Media Design (CMD) has begun to receive quite a bit of attention from industry publications and mainstream media outlets in the last several years as a groundbreaking and reputable media research organization. This archive is only for educational purpose, if the content involved any copyright issue, please contact: Michelle Prieb:
March 2021



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