Ofcom’s annual report on ‘The Communications Market’ has been published recently which gives us an opportunity to discover, from an impartial source, how media consumption habits have changed over the past 12 months.
There are 2 aspects of this report that piqued my interest:
- Some new research into the ‘media day’ of consumers – what media they’re consuming when, in waht volumes and how much attention they’re paying to it.
- The latest research on internet consumption habits – what do people use the internet for, how much has social media grown and to what extent are people using mobiles to access the web?
I’ll cover this latter topic in a separate article. In this one, I’d like to cover Ofcom’s new research into the media day.
The first point that the report makes is that people consume a lot of media. Of the 15 hours and 45 minutes the average person spends awake, 7 hours and 5 minutes are spent in media and communications activities – that’s 45% of their waking hours.
In terms of the media they’re consuming and the communications activities they’re participating in, TV had the highest reach overall, followed by text communications (texting, emailing, social networking) and radio. This varied between age groups, with the top 3 for 55+s being TV, radio and print media and for the 16-24s being text communications, TV and ‘other audio’ (e.g. listening to audio on another device other than a radio).
Ofcom also looked at when media was consumed – unsurprisingly, TV viewing peaked in the evening and radio in the morning. Text communications dropped off a little in the evening when print media consumption tended to pick up.
Although the average time people spent consuming media and communicating was just over 7 hours as mentioned earlier, the actual media consumed was 8 hours 48 minutes worth. This is because 1/5 of that time was spent using more than one form of media at the same time. As a rule of thumb, younger people are more adept at this media multi-tasking than older people, spending a larger portion of their time consuming more than one type of media.
From an advertiser’s perspective, this begs the question – what effect is this multi-media consumption having on the impact of my message?
Ofcom’s research found that when activities are conducted simultaneously the attention people paid to either activity generally fell, though this did not hold true for more traditional forms of media, such as watching scheduled TV, listening to the radio on a radio set and reading print media. By contrast, emailing on a computer and social networking on a computer showed a greater drop in attention when combined with other activities.
In terms of the activities that tend to be undertaken on a ‘solus’ basis, Ofcom identified watching TV as the most popular – 83% of television viewed on a TV set occured without any other concurrent media consumption. Other activities that tend to be undertaken on their own included listening to the radio on a radio set (81%), and reading newspapers, magazines or books (71%). By contrast, activities on a mobile phone and a computer were most likely to be undertaken at the same time as other media activities – 55% of mobile phone use took place concurrently with other media activity, as did 62% of computer use.
This is comfort for companies who target older demographics as most of their consumption involves traditional media such as TV, radio and print. However, for those targeting younger age groups, who consume most of their media via computer’s and mobile phones, it means they’re often fighting for their attention against other media activities.
However, Ofcom’s research went one stage further and looked at the attention people pay and the importance they attached to the various activities.
So for example, a large number of people email and those that do attach a high level of importance and attention to it. Their attention may dip when doing it in association with other activities, but this ‘simultaneous’ attention score is still higher that the attention score for listening to radio, for example.
So what conclusion should we draw from this research?
For me it demonstrates that traditional media can still be highly effective because of its reach. TV is an effective way to reach all demographics, tends to be consumed on its own but suffers from lower than average attention – advertisers will have to be creative in their use of it to make an impact on consumers.
Print media can still be highly effective but primarily for older age groups, particularly 55+s – the fact that people see it’s consumption as important and give it more attention than other forms of mass media elevates its effectiveness.
Those looking to target younger consumers are better advised to take a web or mobile based route, but need to bear in mind that their audience may be multi-tasking so have to make sure their message is being delivered in highly relevant contexts or environments and is highly impactful in order to gain the fullest attention of their audience.
For a full copy of Ofcom’s report on ‘The Communications Market’, click here.