Turns Out, We're Not Such Big Multitaskers

MRI Study Finds Most Media Usage Confined to One at a Time

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Marketers have begun to believe that the average consumer is able to surf the web, answer a cellphone, read a newspaper or magazine, listen to an iPod and watch TV all at the same time. Yet a report released by MRI this week found that multitasking is less frequent than might be expected.

MRI's 2008 MediaDay study surveyed approximately 8,000 U.S. adults about their at-home media usage and consumption habits, and concluded that one-half or more of at-home media usage occurs while the consumer is exclusively engaged with a single medium (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines or internet).

Attention level varies
Specifically, 55% of newspaper reading in an average day is exclusive, as is 53.8% of internet usage, 53.6% of magazine reading and 49.4% of TV viewing. Radio, as could be expected, yielded only a 28.3% exclusivity rating.

According to Anne Marie Kelly, senior VP-marketing and strategic planning at MRI, these results provide a good sense of large-scale consumer behavior, and are most valuable to marketers in suggesting how they should plan their budgets and construct efficient cross-platform strategies.

"For example, someone who does household chores while listening to the radio would be of interest to an advertiser marketing household products," she said.

The exclusivity numbers are, on average, 6% higher among newspaper, magazine and internet consumption when looking at the 45- to 64-year-old demographic, compared to those aged 18 to 29. In that bracket, only TV had more exclusivity.

TV viewers distracted
The MediaDay results also suggested that when more than one medium is used simultaneously in the home, it is typically TV and another medium: 19% of at-home magazine reading is done while watching TV; 17.4% of internet usage is done while watching TV; and 15.3% of at-home newspaper reading is done while watching TV.

This kind of data can help pinpoint what type of consumer is most apt to be exposed to a given medium, Ms. Kelly said. For the consumer who watches TV and is online at the same time, she said, TV ads containing a web URL could work particularly well.

When using media outside the home, the percent of exclusive usage drops significantly for internet and TV. Only 20.4% of usage is exclusive when dealing with the internet, largely, MRI says, because 62.2% of usage is done while simultaneously working. Similarly, 46.4% of out-of-home TV viewing is done while simultaneously working or interacting with others.

Newspapers have the highest level of singular attention, 68% among adults aged 18-29. Somewhat surprisingly, that number drops to 45% in older adults, aged 45-64.
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