Americans Constantly Multitasking with Various Media Throughout the Day

Article ID: 517630

Released: 30-Jan-2006 2:50 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Ball State University

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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 http://www.bsu.edu/cmd/insightresearch.

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.


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