Digital usage overtaking all legacy media
After culling through reports from more than 40 institutions, eMarketer forecasts that the average amount of time likely to be spent on digital media this year will climb to five hours and 9 minutes (5:09), as compared with 4:31 in 2012.
If the prediction holds true, then the amount of time spent with digital media will for the first time surpass the roughly 4½ hours per day that Americans historically have watched television.
While TV heretofore has been unchallenged as the most popular medium, the shift to digital consumption (as discussed previously here) could create considerable static for local broadcasters.
The digital surge is being driven by the explosive adoption of smartphones, tablets and other mobile media, which provide consumers with the sort of intimate and individualized experiences that are beyond the reach of the traditional broadcast and print media. In June, the Nielsen market research service reported that 61% of Americans own smartphones and Pew Research Center said that 34% of Americans own a tablet.
Given the rapid adoption of captivating devices that were nonexistent a few short years ago, eMarketer expects non-voice mobile activity to rise to 2:21 in 2012, as compared with 24 minutes as recently as 2010. This represents a 487.5% increase in mobile consumption in four years.
Noting that many consumers use multiple devices at the same time, eMarketer tallies the use of each device separately. Thus, an individual using a laptop while watching a half-hour sitcom would be counted as having spent 30 minutes with each device. The “other” category in the table below refers to such activities as playing video games or going to the movies.
With the use of digital gear growing, eMarketer expects the consumption of newspapers and magazines will continue to fall in 2013, as they have for the prior three years. Newspaper consumption, which averaged 30 minutes a day in 2010, is expected to drop to 18 minutes in 2013, reflecting a decline of 40% since 2010. Magazines, which averaged 20 minutes in 2010, are forecast to slip to 14 minutes this year, a drop of 30% since 2010.
To be sure, some of the time formerly spent with print has been switched to mobile devices. In a study released in the fall, Pew said news consumption was a top activity among tablet users, ranking second only to email. Pew found that 64% of tablet owners accessed the news at least once a week, while 22% read magazines with the devices at least once week.
Although the appetite for digitally delivered news may be high, the declining utilization of printed media spells further trouble for publishers who historically have generated the preponderance of their revenues from print advertising. In a sampling of the ongoing agonies of the newspaper industry – which has not seen positive ad sales since early 2006 – advertising revenues in the first half of the year were down 5.0% for Gannett Inc., 6.4% for McClatchy Co. and 8.5% for the New York Times Co., according to their respective financial statements.
While most publishers have pledged to pivot from print to pixels, the nagging question is whether the market is moving faster than they can.