Media Consumption Underestimated
- 2004 13 May
It's not surprising for a study to find that America has become a culture saturated by media consumption. What may be surprising is the difference between how much Americans think they consume and how much they really do.
Researchers at Ball State University's Center for Media Design set out to try to more accurately gauge daily American media consumption. Rather than only using the traditional methods – phone surveys or personal diaries – they also observed media interaction firsthand. This they did by simply following participants around from the time they awoke to the time they went to bed.
The results, published in The International Digital Media & Arts Association Journal, revealed that "people spend more than double ... the time with the media than they think they do."
The total time spent with the media by the average person each day was a whopping 11.7 hours. The study understood "media" to include things like watching television, video tapes or DVDs; listening to the radio, CDs, cassettes or MP3 players; spending time on the computer, Internet, or sending and receiving e-mail; talking on the telephone or cell phone; and reading books, magazines or newspapers.
The report said the "least media-active person" observed by researchers spent 5.25 hours a day with the media, while the most active spent over 17 hours.
"Phone surveys reflect a person's perception of their media use but not their actual behavior," said a statement from the researchers. "Diaries give more detail than phone surveys, but we found observation provides much more detail than diaries."
For example, while in phone surveys people said they watched 121 minutes of television a day, that number jumped to 278 minutes for people recording activities in personal diaries – and 319 minutes when observed directly.
Time spent on the Internet revealed similar underreporting: in phone surveys people claimed they only spent 29 minutes a day online, while personal diary accounts put that at 57 minutes. Researchers observing people, however, said those people actually spent 78 minutes on the Internet.
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