Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices

Media device ownership in 2013

Today consumers own more devices than ever before, and the greatest growth comes from digital devices, many of which didn’t even exist a few years ago.  If fact, according to Nielsen’s recent Digital Consumer Report (full disclosure: I helped research and create this report) not only do the majority of Americans now own smartphones, but during 2013 time spent accessing the internet using smartphone apps (34 hours per person on average) surpassed time spent surfing the web on computers (27 hours on average).  Whether consumers using the devices to access media or connect with one another, advertisers and marketers must follow consumer’s eyeballs as they jump across multiple screens and platforms.

So where do consumers spend their time and attention when using media?  According to the report we now spend 60 hours per week consuming content across devices, and the majority of time spent remains watching traditional TV with HDTVs now in more than four-fifths of American households. Not only are smartphones in over two-thirds of Americans’ pockets, but we’re frequently engaged with our mobile handsets, spending more time using smartphone apps and the mobile web than any activity besides watching TV. In fact using smartphones and tablets as second-screens while watching TV is an increasingly popular pastime in American living rooms, with 84 percent of smartphone owners interacting with their favorite shows and nearly half of whom do so every day (including myself).

Understanding what technology consumers own and what media they use is critical to reach the right audience, and the full report has many more details for every marketer needs to know, using real-world data from Nielsen’s measurement of media usage to uncover the digital activities of American consumers.  For example, while mobile devices are growing rapidly, speculation about the impending demise of traditional PCs and web browsers is greatly exaggerated: ownership of computers actually grew over the last few years, with desktops and laptops now found in four out of five American homes.  And when accessing the web on computers, consumers spend more of their time connecting on social media, spending one out of every five minutes on the web using social media and about a quarter of their time accessing smartphones is using social media apps.

Now that the average American owns four digital devices on average (and growing every year), it’s no longer a process of picking one channel over another, but rather to follow consumers wherever they access content. Today marketers and advertisers have more avenues than ever to reach consumers in the expanding media universe, but only if they use high-quality research to understand where to find their audience.