Sunday, June 1, 2008

What do you watch, listen to, and read?

This morning, one of the first things I did was walk outside and grab the Sunday paper. It's an old habit dating back to when I was a kid living just outside of Boston. Every Sunday, with few other things competing for my attention, I'd study the Red Sox box score in the Globe and read the weekly Peter Gammons column. This usually served as a gateway read, exposing me to issues and ideas throughout the rest of the paper that I might not have heard about otherwise. This was a good thing for a kid whose thoughts usually only ranged from Hank Aaron to Paul Zuvella.

Today, of course, things are different. The
Journal Gazette is part of my Sunday morning ritual, but I spend significantly less time with the paper than I used to. That is somewhat a result of having less time, but it's also a reflection of my changing media habits. And I'd bet your habits are changing, too. All of us have more choices, which usually means less time spent with traditional media--newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio--in favor of new media.

All of this got me thinking about how it's much more difficult for advertisers to reach me these days, and much less likely that I'll be exposed to "unfiltered" information from outside my range of interests, for better or for worse. Here's a snapshot of how much time I spend with ad-supported media. How much opportunity does anyone have to reach me with an unsolicited message?

- The Internet is the big kahuna of my media consumption time. I spend at least an hour a night on the web, and as much as three hours some nights during the week. That doesn't count the time I spend on the web while at work, or the hours I'm online on the weekend, which vary from a couple to a couple dozen. However, I believe banner blindness is very real, and I can think of only about three times when I've clicked on a web ad. However, I know word of mouth (through e-mail, blogs, customer reviews, etc.) has a big effect on me, as does PR/earned media. In short, if you want to reach me, the web is where you'll find me. But it's unlikely you'll reach me with an ad.

- TV is where I most clearly divert from the norm. The only TV in my house is the one my wife has had since college (and she graduated in 1990). There is no such thing as "must see" TV in my world, and it's rare that I turn it on for anything other than occasional background noise. And while I'd like to attribute my rejection of TV to some Zen state of being or a preference for more high-brow activities, I'll steal a quote from Lev Grossman*: "I can get away with not having a TV partly because my personal life is so amazingly rich and satisfying but mostly because I have a computer." In fact, instead of upgrading my TV, I'm thinking of getting rid of it altogether.

- Radio is also a low-impact medium for me. When I'm in the car, I usually listen to a CD or I'm on the phone. I listen to a decent amount of NPR stuff on WBOI/98.1, but other than that, radio is a nonentity. And WBOI is, of course, "commercial free." So unless you're a public radio underwriter (sidenote: I don't think there's much of a distinction between advertising and underwriting), you won't get my attention.

- Newspapers and me, as mentioned above, go way back. But that's not to say that my newspaper reading habits haven't changed. In addition to Sunday, I read the paper on Saturday since its delivered as part of the ever-expanding Journal Gazette "weekend" subscription (which I think now includes everything but the third Tuesday of the month). Other than that, though, I almost never read a printed copy of the JG, and I read other papers only rarely, except when a blog post or a friend directs me to a story online. I used to go to the Fort Wayne Newspapers website just about every day, but now I have the sections I'm interested in--Local, Business, and Opinion--"delivered" to me via RSS feeds. And when Google Reader is your morning paper, guess how many ads you see? (Well, at least until next week.)

- Magazines still get some of my discretionary time. I subscribe to a few, and because they're aligned with my interests I'm sure the ads I see have some impact on me. The ones I read regularly include
Runner's World and Men's Health (although I'm almost certain to cancel my subscription soon since all they write about is food, sex, and abs exercises...I'm not sure why I subscribed to begin with), and local publications like the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, Business People, and Fort Wayne Monthly. But overall, my time spent with magazines is declining. A great example is Time, which I subscribed to for more than 10 years before canceling a couple years ago. It just seemed like most of its content was old news by the time it hit my mailbox. This is where local magazines have an advantage, because it's hard to find the same information on the web and the content is potentially more relevant to my information needs.

- Outdoor is the one medium that seems to be least impacted by new media. But it's also among the media most likely to be executed in a way that makes it totally ineffective. Creating a billboard is deceptively difficult, but if you follow the rules of good design, I'll listen to what you have to say. But only for about three seconds.

As someone in marketing, I continue to use myself as a reality check when considering how to connect an audience and a message. It's not easy today, and it's not going to get any easier as technology continues to give us more choices.

How about you? What do you watch, listen to, and read? How have your media consumption habits changed during the past few years?

*Recommended reading: Lev Grossman's "
Getting Rid of My TV" at

1 comment:

ScLoHo (Scott Howard) said...

Many of my media habits are influenced by my profession. Like you, the internet has become my top source for information. Between reading, writing, and entertainment, it could replace all other sources of similar media.

However, my wife is still a television person, and we subscribe to a cable service that includes internet and television. Often we do parallel play, my laptop and her tv.

There are 4 tv's in our house, and only 2 of us living at our home fulltime.

My radio is on whenever I'm in the car. I listen mostly to talk including NPR. I'll also flip on the radio in my office when I am there.

We get the newspaper delivered on the weekend and I will go through it every couple of weeks, checking to see who is advertising, a work related activity. I also listen to other radio stations to see who is advertising.

I agree with your assessment of billboards, however there is another type of sign cropping up, the LED style color signs that business are buying, but not using to their best advantage yet.

I also read books. At least 30 minutes a day. Mostly biographies, and marketing materials.