Good night and good luck, indeed.
According to a new study 70% of consumers who own a slate-format computer (which basically means the iPad with the occasional cameo from a Nook Color, or PlayBook) tinker with their device while also watching TV. And 25% of owners use them to occupy their minds while they do...something else...in the bathroom. E-readers, meanwhile, are used the vast majority of time in the bedroom. Does this mean prime time TV is doomed, and that the phrase "Not tonight, darling—I'm Kindling" is becoming common? Nope, and nope—but it is a sign entertainment is changing perhaps faster than anyone thought.
The data comes from a fresh Nielsen survey, and it backs up some thinking that's been developing for some while. Nielsen spoke to nearly 12,000 "connected device" owners, and discovered that 68% of tablet PC users user them while watching TV, an activity that took up about 30% of the time they used the device, while just 35% of e-reader users did this (for 15% of the time). And while 57% of tablet PC owners also use them in bed, a bigger 61% share of e-reader usage happens in the bedroom—an activity that takes up 37% of their total e-reader usage time.
These use cases match up with your expectations perhaps—while you're watching Jon Stewart tear a wayward politician a new one, you may be tempted to tap away at your iPad to see what said politician has been up to in the news, or look up a guesting cast member on your favorite show to see if they're coming back in a future episode. This kind of incremental use is something the TV networks won't worry about...it actually boosts engagement in their shows, which is why there are experiments like Fox's ill-fated Twitter and Fringe mashup. But there's a danger—because switching to a casual game, Facebook or your email is just a few fingertaps away, and we all know how addictive this process can be.
Basically that fast-fading 1950s image of the family all clustered around that one screen, every eye captivated by its monopolistic channel for messages is now firmly in history. Prime time TV content creators should, in the light of this data, have to think carefully about how to keep their audience engaged, otherwise the value of all those interstitial ads will decline fast.
Meanwhile e-readers are slowly supplanting paper books, and hence their majority usage in bedrooms is probably to be expected. Interestingly, here's where one design collision occurs: The Kindle, allegedly the best-selling e-reader, uses e-ink tech that needs to be illuminated from above. This means the traditional bedside lamp has a good future ahead of it, as does the booklight. Wouldn't a self-illuminating screen be better?
Nielsen also surveyed smartphone use, and frankly it's these devices that are really changing everything: 68% of owners use them while watching TV, and use cases involving friends and family, commuting, shopping, all run around the 50% use mark. Smartphones aren't used so much in class or in the bathroom (worried about dropping the smaller, harder to hold little buggers in the tub?)—but roughly one in two owners seems to be using them in pretty much every other situation, including just killing time waiting for something else to happen.
What can we learn from this data? Smart gadgets are pervasive. They're already changing long-held habits, and doing so very fast. If you're a content creator on almost any platform, you'll need to be aware of how your audience's attention is changing, and if you're a marketer then think of the plethora of new ways to appeal to the public through their emerging habits.
[Image: Jonas Damon]