Digital Rises to Top in Media Use (Brian Kratkiewicz Commentary)

Question: As of 2013, which medium do people spend the most time with each day? If you answered television, you are a year behind. The answer is digital.

Research firm eMarketer reports that consumers now spend an average of five hours and 16 minutes each day with desktop and mobile digital media. That’s an increase of nearly 17 percent over 2012.

And it’s not as if people are spending less time with television. The four hours and 31 minutes spent on average with TV each day represent a 2.5 percent increase over 2010. The bottom line is that people are spending more time than ever consuming media — more than 12 hours every day — due to digital media providing more opportunities for consumption.

The fourth edition of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods’ annual “State of the Media” report provides an in-depth analysis of the changes taking place in the world of media and advertising. Here are key findings from the report.

• While people may spend more time with digital than television these days, television still reaches the most people and controls the majority of U.S. advertising dollars with a 39 percent share. However, there are signs of viewership erosion among those under the age of 35. Marketers must keep an eye on how digital devices, desktop opportunities and Internet TVs impact viewing as time goes on and the younger market becomes the core audience.

• The driving force behind the increased time spent with digital media is mobile. Time spent with mobile has grown by 487 percent since 2010, from 24 minutes a day to two hours and 21 minutes a day. As the price of mobile devices has dropped (e.g., affordable tablets such as the Kindle Fire), online access has increased, driven by the growth of digital use. Digital ad spending has not grown as quickly as has time spent with digital; it is still growing steadily each year, and now controls 24 percent of all ad dollars.

• Radio continues to be a solid performer as its share of advertising dollars continues to grow slightly each year and the time people spend with it remains steady. While Internet radio listenership through vehicles such as Pandora and Spotify has nearly doubled since 2009 to 120 million listeners, broadcast radio remains the dominant force with more than 240 million users.

• Newspaper ad revenues and readership are decreasing slightly each year. The newspaper industry, like magazines, must figure out how to increase its digital readership enough to compensate for the losses in print circulation.

• Although circulation and advertising dollars continue to erode slightly each year, magazines will continue to be a staple of marketers. Still, while digital circulation of magazines continues its fast growth, it is not enough to make up for losses in print circulation.

• The driving force behind outdoor advertising growth is the digital billboard. Even though just 2 percent of board locations are digital, they control 20 percent of all outdoor advertising. Digital boards are also appealing to marketers as production costs are lower and messages can be changed out quite easily.

• Finally, the growth in popularity of the “content marketing” concept has led more and more brands and marketers to use websites and social media to deliver messages directly to target audiences. A 2013 study from Unisphere Research found that 71 percent of surveyed marketers reported publishing original content to their websites and then promoting it through social media. Separate reports showed that “interesting content” was one of the top reasons people connect with brands in social media.

As technology advances and becomes available to more people due to lower prices for products and services, consumption patterns will continue to shift toward digital media. If a major change in pricing suddenly occurs, or if an ultra-advanced Internet-connected television hits the marketplace, there could be a sudden and massive shift in consumption habits.

The best bet for marketers? Keep a sharp eye on the changing landscape of media use and continue to integrate digital media into their media mixes at a conservative rate.

Brian Kratkiewicz is senior vice president of media at Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods of Little Rock, a full-service communications agency. Email him at Brian.Kratkiewicz@CJRW.com.