America’s Media Thirst Unquenchable, Claims Study

Rather than killing traditional media, the preponderance of digital media and Web-connected devices has only spurred America’s media addiction, as the average person now squeezes media into seemingly every free moment of their lives.

At least that’s according to a recent study conducted by Arbitron and Edison Research, which found that Americans are spending close to 20 percent more time consuming both the Internet, as well as not-quite-dead-yet broadcast media like radio and TV, than they were ten years ago. Amazingly, per the report—The Infinite Dial 2011: Navigating Digital Platforms—Americans are spending an hour and 21 minutes more time per day with media than in 2001.

Obviously the rise of the Internet, and the fact that 51 percent of households now have two computers (versus just 24 percent in 2002) has a lot to do with that increase. But the New York Times notes that the explosion in smartphones over the past few years, buoyed by Apple’s iPhone, is expanding the average person’s engaged-with-some-sort-of-screen time, as every moment spent waiting in line, riding on a plane or taking the train to work can be better endured nowadays with media.

In fact, 31 percent of Americans claim to own a smartphone, according to Arbitron/Edison’s report, up from just 14 percent a year ago.

Among the other noteworthy nuggets from Arbitron/Edison research (a telephone survey of 2,020 people): more than half of American 12 and older (51 percent) use Facebook, up from 8 percent from just three years ago.

In addition, online radio—previously a niche activity—has crossed over into the mainstream, with a boost from Pandora and other mobile apps. According to Arbitron and Edison’s report, total weekly usage of online radio has doubled in the past five years, netting out at 9 hours 47 minutes per week. In fact, the audience for Web radio has doubled every five years since 2001, and now exceeds 57 million teens and adults each week, or 22 percent of Americans 12 and older.

A big driver of online radio usage is its mobile accessibility. One in ten respondents claim to have listened to Pandora in the week before the survey was conducted, thanks in part to the popularity of its mobile app. And more than 10 percent of users claimed to have streamed online radio in their cars via their cell phones.

Interestingly however, online radio hasn’t hurt old school terrestrial radio. According to Arbitron and Edison, 89 percent of weekly online radio listeners spend their time streaming local AM and FM stations.