February 18, 2008

Creating media while consuming it.

US consumers are media omnivores, right down to the youngest members of the herd.

Grunwald Associates says that in 2007, 64% of the US 9- to-17-year-olds surveyed in early 2008 said they went online while watching television. Nearly half of US teens said they did so frequently, up to several times a day.

Children have become more proficient in their multitasking since 2002, when Grunwald last conducted the study. The percentage of US child and teen Internet users who used e-mail or sent instant messaging while watching TV nearly doubled during that time.

Nearly half of the respondents said that their attention was focused mainly on the Internet when they used it in combination with TV. Only 11% said that TV had their primary attention while multitasking.

Many respondents were creating Web content while watching TV, often spreading buzz about the shows as they watched.

Specifically, 27% of the respondents said they maintained blogs, Web pages or other online spaces of their own while watching TV.

"It is important for commercial efforts to be credible and respect kids' intelligence—and the content they produce," said Peter Grunwald, president of Grunwald Associates. "Kids are using social networking tools to create personal content and share their opinions with great speed, passion and influence."

The Grunwald study agrees with data from captured in the August 2007 Online Testing eXchange-eCRUSH "Teen Topix" report.

Well over half of the 13- to-17-year-olds surveyed for the study said that they surfed the Internet while watching TV. Nearly one-half watched TV at the same time as using e-mail or instant messaging.

"Marketers and media companies must do more than just acknowledge that kids and teens are engaging with several media simultaneously," said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer. "They need to develop ways to measure the impact of multitasking.

"As the Grunwald Associates study points out, children and teens pay more attention to the Internet than the TV when they are engaged in both activities," Ms. Williamson said.

"Companies need to understand what that divided attention means," she said. "Is the TV merely background noise? Are young people able to absorb an ad message even if they’re not paying direct attention to it? These are the kinds of questions that future research must answer."

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