Media multi-tasking: a snapshot in changing behaviours of digital consumers


Danny Meadows-KlueResearch | by Danny Meadows-Klue

There is a marked increase in the number of people choosing to consume different media simultaneously, confirming the evolution of media multi-taskers according to new research from the European Interactive Advertising Association released in June 2009. The study highlights how consumers are entering a new phase of communications and commerce online and how dual simultaneous media consumption has become standard consumer behaviour.

The first ‘Media Multi-tasking Report’ tracks the increasing shift towards media convergence with TV and internet media multi-tasking growing rapidly, +38% since 2006, with almost a quarter (22%) of all Europeans now using TV and internet simultaneously. For brands trying to market to people whose attention is not focussed on a single media, this presents significant challenges.

Key findings:

  • Europeans that use TV and internet simultaneously represent a rapidly growing group of ‘media multi-taskers’ as media convergence moves mainstream
  • Digital youth are the heaviest media multi-taskers while Silver Surfers are also increasingly multi-tasking their media
  • Media multi-taskers are more likely to change their mind about a brand and make more purchases following web research compared to non multi-taskers
  • The need for marketers to manage and build their brand reputation online is growing rapidly with the emergence of the ‘Word of Web’ as the internet continues to empower consumers

Growing influence of social networks
Media multi-taskers are heavy communicators online with more than half (51%) using Instant Messaging (vs. 27% of non multi-taskers) and communicating via social networks (53% vs. 33%) to share updates and opinions with friends and family. With almost a third (29%) of media multi-taskers using their mobile to communicate without talking (e.g. via email, IM, communicating via social networking) it suggests this group are both technologically sophisticated and more deeply engaged as a target market.

Media multi-taskers are also more inclined to take onboard information from the websites of well known brands (57% vs. 46% of non multi-taskers), price comparison websites (57% vs. 47%) and customer website reviews (54% vs. 41%) when researching or considering a product or service. Almost half of TV and internet multi-taskers (48%) also admit to actively changing their mind about a brand to purchase after research on the internet compared to 36% of non multi-taskers. This implies that ‘word of mouth’ is fast developing into ‘word of web’ and for marketers, demonstrates how consumers are becoming more empowered to formulate and communicate thoughts and opinions of brands online. It also highlights the need to effectively engage with audiences online to build and safeguard brand reputation.

Buying more online
The research shows that TV and internet multi-taskers buy almost twice as many items online than those that do not mix their media (12 items vs. 7) and spend 26% more money on these items (€798 vs. €632 on average). The types of popular products bought are not limited to low ticket items and media multi-taskers also seem especially keen on entertainment, FMCG and technology products.

Products / services bought online TV and internet multi-taskers Non TV and internet multi-taskers
Travel tickets 57% 45%
Books 41% 36%
Electrical Goods 41% 27%
Clothes 41% 27%
Concert/theatre/festival tickets 41% 30%
Holidays 40% 32%

As a result of the internet, 60% of media multi-taskers believe they are able to buy better products and services, compared to just 46% of non multi-taskers. In addition, eight out of ten (80%) multi-taskers state that they are staying in touch with friends and relatives more (vs. 69% of non multi-taskers) and more than half (54%) are better able to manage their finances online (vs. 42%). Ultimately, with 88% of media multi-taskers conclusively stating they cannot live without at least one web activity (compared to 79% of non multi-taskers), it seems the empowering effect the internet is having on lifestyle options and choices is far greater overall than amongst those who do not mix their media.

Profile of the multi-taskers
The majority of European media multi-taskers are aged under 35. One quarter (25%) of those who mix their media regularly fall within the digital youth category (16-24 year olds), while 29% are part of our ‘Golden Youth’ ( 24-35 year olds) – a group already identified as heavy and engaged users of the internet. In comparison, only 13% of media multi-taskers are aged between 45 and 54 years old. However, it seems that Silver Surfers (+55) are also a demographic that is increasingly meshing their media with a 75% rise in media multi-tasking since 2006. Marketers should bear these demographic differences in mind when thinking about future multi-media campaigns.

Mainstreaming of multi-tasking behaviour
The rapid growth in the media multi-tasker is expected to be further propelled by the development of technology and accessibility of the internet. Twice as many media multi-taskers access the internet via mobile phone or Wi-Fi compared to non multi-taskers. With multi-taskers more likely to have access to wireless technology (57% vs. 43%) as well as own a laptop (69% vs. 54%), it suggests that media multi-taskers will continue to deepen their engagement with the internet whilst watching TV and that as the numbers of multi-taskers overall rise, media-meshing will move towards the mainstream.

Research methodology
The study involved 9,095 interviews in total with 6000 CATI interviews in UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands in addition to 3000 online interviews in Scandinavia along with 3000 interviews using an Omnibus study. Interviews were conducted throughout September 2008.

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