Mark Twain famously quipped that news of his death was exaggerated when the press mistook his cousin's serious illness for his own. Today, much the same could be said about traditional media. It seems that its death is foretold by any number of pundits with every new release of data on social media and digital devices. (Facebook's 500 million members would make it the third-largest country in the world! Ashton Kutcher has more than 7 million Twitter followers! IPad-mania sweeps through coffee shops around the world!)
Of course, there is no denying the rapidly growing and truly disruptive impact of new devices and social media. But at the same time, there is also no denying that traditional outlets are thriving in the lives of consumers today, and that they form the core of how most consumers interact with media. This is true for the general population, and it is even true among the affluent Americans that we study, even though they have the discretionary income to indulge in an array of devices, as well as the digital literacy to get the most out of them.
Throughout 2011, we have used our Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer to track new and traditional media use among American Affluents. This monthly survey consists of more than 1,000 online interviews with respondents making at least $100,000 in annual household income -- in other words, the 20% of Americans who account for about 60% of U.S. income and approximately 70% of U.S. net worth. The survey was conducted between March and May 2011.
When asked how they read magazines, 93% said they read hard-copy print versions; in contrast, less than a third read them on computers, and no other format garnered more than 10%. The same pattern is evident for newspapers, which 86% read in print, compared to the 39% who read them on computers, and 14% who read them via smartphone. TV shows are watched on TVs by 94%, followed by 23% who watch them on computers. Websites are viewed on computers by 94%, followed by 32% viewing them on smartphones. The pattern is clear across all media. The vast majority consume content through its most traditional outlet: magazines and newspapers in print, websites on computers, video content through TVs and so on.