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A silo of their own
for the lost boys

One exception to media-multitasking: Video games

By Toni Fitzgerald

   It seems that every month brings a new survey detailing how we no longer use media in a single silo, to use the vogue research term, meaning apart from and independent of other media.
   In this relatively recent way of looking at media usage, online/TV/magazines--heck, even reading the mail--are mushed together as one vast media super-session.
   We are a nation of media multi-taskers.
   But it turns out there's one exception: video games.
   Video games still exist in a silo, at least when it comes to simultaneous use with television.
   And, sadly for advertisers, that's where the lost boys of media are spending their time.
   Ever since the broadcast networks began screaming earlier this year about a swift downturn in TV watching by men 18-34, they’ve been looking for a reason, and video games have popped up several times as a potential cause.
   Now a new survey from the American Press Institute’s Media Center conducted by BIG Research finds that, indeed, these gamers are turning off the tube for online time, and it’s not just the men.
   TV viewing dipped 8.8 percent among 18-24s and 12.2 percent among 25-34s in favor of video games.
   “What’s an interesting question is what else video game players are doing in addition to not watching television,” says Media Center researcher Jennifer Kronstain. 
  “I think everyone knows that advertisers have to be on multiple platforms to reach multiple audiences these days. But part of what’s enlightening is that the report describes or indicates how to be certain a platform will influence purchasing decisions by doing certain things.”
   Older people and users of other media are not switching off the television. 
  In fact, simultaneous usage of TV and other media, such as online and newspapers, is more prevalent than ever, with 74 percent of the study respondents reporting it.
   It’s merely with video games and television that consumers are making a conscious choice of one over the other.
   Sixty-six percent of respondents said they watch TV while going online. But nearly as many, 52.1 percent, say they listen to the radio (songs or talk) while they surf. About 20 percent read the newspaper while on the web.
   Nearly 62 percent watch television while waiting for internet downloads to finish. Another 20.2 percent read the newspaper during that time.
   When it comes to purchase influence, TV still rules, though word-of-mouth buzz via friends over the cell phone is becoming a huge influence.
   Nearly 61 percent of TV watchers and newspaper readers both consider television one of the most influential factors in purchase decisions.
   Eighty percent of cell phone users say that word of mouth is very important in their decision to purchase goods, compared to 72.5 percent of all consumers. 
   Of course, cell phone users also seem to stay connected longer than the general population and thus exchange more word of mouth, too – the study found that cell users are online for four hours per day compared to three for the overall respondents.
   Many online users, 56.2 percent, say that radio is an important or very important influence on purchase decisions.
   “Advertisers have to be in lots of places in order to capture the market,” says Media Center co-director Dale Peskin. “Our data suggests there are many places people are getting information to make decisions on.”
   Among the other interesting findings: Movies apparently make the best newspaper companion as 64.3 percent of simultaneous paper/TV users said they watch them while reading. Fifty-six percent chose detective shows and 51.5 percent chose sitcoms.

March 25, 2004© 2004 Media Life

- Toni Fitzgerald is a staff writer for Media Life.

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