June 14, 2019

Time Spent on All Media Flattens As Digital Gains More Favor

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc. 

Total time spent on all media is stagnating in the United States, with rises in digital-media use offsetting declines in such traditional media sources as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, eMarketer says in a new report.

In the report, eMarketer forecasts that the time U.S. adults spend on all media in 2019 will average 12 hours, 9 minutes per day, which is but a 1-minute increase from time spent on all media a year ago. The sliver of an increase also is in stark contrast to years 2009-2015, when total time spent on all media swelled about 1.5 hours per day.

Rising above those sluggish numbers in the forecast, though, is time spent on digital media, which eMarketer declares as “the big winner” as it continues to displace traditional TV.

“Mass adoption of smartphones made media multitasking standard procedure for many people, and this often consisted of looking at social media or other content on a phone while sort-of-watching TV,” says Mark Dolliver, eMarketer principal analyst.

“But if you’ve made a considered decision to watch something on Netflix and have paid a subscription fee to do so, you’re less likely to distract yourself by layering another kind of media usage atop that. So, less multitasking means less of an increase in total time spent with media.”

Digital audio also is contributing to digital media’s gains, thanks to the popularity of Alexa and other smart speakers, as well as podcasts. Time spent with digital audio is forecast to average 1 hour, 20 minutes this year and increase to 1 hour, 24 minutes next year.

Marketers can look forward to an uptick in total time spent on all media in 2020, an estimated 4 percent — but that will be thanks in part to a couple of watershed, televised events that arise simultaneously every four years, the Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential election, eMarketer notes.

Time Spent on Social Media at a Crawl, Too

In the same report, Time Spent With Media 2019, eMarketer says the time spent on all social media also declined in 2018, albeit one minute, to an average of an hour and 14 minutes a day.

The decline is led by a projected drop in Facebook use, from an average of 38 minutes a day in 2018 to 37 minutes this year.

However, that decline was expected, as Facebook led a charge last year for its users to sift through more “meaningful” content. That drive de-emphasizes posts from brands, businesses and media, and instead allows users to see more posts from friends, family and groups. Facebook predicted — correctly — that the drive would affect time spent on the platform.

Not many observers are feeling too sorry for Facebook, though, because as the top social-media platform, it still commands a user base of 169.2 million in the U.S., with 74% of adult users saying they visit it daily.

Also, thanks in part to younger users, time spent on the Instagram platform that Facebook controls is expected to surpass time spent on Snapchat this year. That would then give Facebook and Instagram a 1-2 punch atop the list of time spent on social-media platforms.

Time spent on Snapchat will remain at 26 minutes this year, eMarketer predicts, noting of that platform’s fall: “The company is still feeling the effects of a widely-disliked app redesign, as well as increased competition from Instagram Stories and other digital activities.”

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