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The media may pump out more ads and news stories than ever before but-surprise-Americans claim they are not suffering media overload. Almost three out of four (74%) deny they feel swamped, claiming they choose what to read and view and aren't daunted by the choices.

That doesn't mean they're keen on the prospect of 500 channels on TV. Just 18% of respondents to the fifth Lifescapes online poll say they're very interested in this gaggle of choices. Almost half are either not very interested (32%) or not at all interested (14%). Another 36% say they are somewhat interested.

Lifescapes is a whimsical but important qualitative survey of life in America conducted online by American Dialogue on America Online.

Still, more than half of respondents (56%) say that counting everything, they read far more than they did five years ago. Just 8% claim to read less. Another 36% figure they read about the same amount.

They are reading, more often than not, while listening to music or with one eye on TV. Some 78% say they regularly process two media at the same time. They also tend to rely on several news sources. For a major news story in which they were keenly interested-such as the bombing of the World Trade Center or the L.A. earthquake-people would consult on average three sources of news.

The biggest for blockbuster stories are newspapers: 86% of respondents say they rely on them then. Another 84% turn to cable TV such as CNN while 62% would follow up with a print news magazine. Some 58% would turn to radio news, 56% would go online and 44% to a TV news magazine show like "20/20." Roughly a third would turn to talk radio (36%), a wire service report (34%) or a print feature magazine (30%). And 8% would watch tabloid TV such as "Hard Copy."

At the same time, for more mundane news the primary source for 34% of Lifescapers is network TV. For another 16%, the prime news source is local TV news. Another 14% rely on CNN, while 12% each turn to a local newspaper or radio station. Some 23% rely on other sources, including online services. No one picked a national newspaper.

If respondents could have only one TV channel in their home, more (22% each) would stick with ABC and NBC than anything else. Only 8% selected CBS, while 10% opted for Fox, and 16% each for CNN and PBS. Another 4% selected HBO and 2% ESPN. None picked MTV.

Most people (62%) read magazines in a particular order. The most popular approach is front to back, adopted by 45% of respondents. A third (33%) claim to always skim stuff first.

Another 9% typically read back to front while 6% each read the features first and departments second and the cover story first, with the rest more randomly.

Just as many people purchase a magazine to be entertained as they do to get new ideas (38% each). For another 24%, the primary motive is news. Some 44% say they are seeking intellectual stimulation, 38% to be in the know and 18% for escapist fantasy.

Book purchasers have similar motivations. Some 54% seek intellectual stimulation, 40% want escape and just 6% buy a book to be in the know.

TV viewers, on the other hand, are much more escapist. Some 70% tune in to tune out, while just 20% claim their primary reason for watching TV is to be in the know. Just one in 10 does it for intellectual stimulation.

Based on what's tuned to, it seems the primary reason people listen to radio is for the music (64%), followed by talk (28%), news/sports (6%) and spiritual guidance (2%). But the main reason they subscribe to cable TV is better reception (28%). Still, 20% of respondents don't subscribe and 16% say they do so because of the movies, 10% for the original programming and 8% for the documentaries and educational programming.

Forced to limit themselves to network or cable TV, 52% of Lifescapers would opt for the former and 48% for the latter. Yet 78% say their favorite TV shows are on network TV vs. 22% on cable. Some 70% of these onliners consider what they find modeming as entertaining as what's on TV.

Maybe Lifescapers aren't often in their cars, but only 12% say they listen to books on tape once or twice a week and 38% say they do so occasionally. Half say they never do. None admit to tuning in three or more times a week.

Interestingly, people often have more than one book "going" at the same time. In fact, more people (44%) read at least three books simultaneously than any other group.

Some 26% have two or more books going at one time, while 24% have only one in progress



Lifescapes is overnight, online marketing research and brainstorming conducted by Bernice Kanner and American Dialogue, with the sole market research franchise on America Online. This poll was based on 300 self-selected responses to an e-mailing Jan 23-24. For each completed questionnaire, $1 was donated to charity. For more information on Lifescapes, call Bernice Kanner at (212) 427-3570 or e-mail [email protected]

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