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Screens Within Screens

In a New York Times Digital Domain column from this week, author Randall Stross writes:

“And yet television stands out as the one old-media business with surprising resilience. Though we are spending a record amount of time online, including a record amount of time watching video, we are also watching record amounts of very old-fashioned television, according to Nielsen Media Research. Our attachment to the medium, of course, is obscured by the splintering of our attention across so many cable offerings, in addition to the major networks.

Why is the newspaper business losing readers at an accelerated rate while television viewership is stronger than ever? Here’s a speculative idea: A tipping point has been passed in the competition between print and screen that has been under way since the beginnings of broadcast TV and now continues with video and other media.

Consumers are increasingly avoiding newspapers — and books, too — because the text mode is now used so infrequently that it can feel like a burden. People are showing a clear preference for a fully formed video experience that comes ready to play on a screen, requiring nothing but our passive attention.”

The article, Why Television Still Shines in a World of Screens, stresses that though online video has become a major player in the world of advertising, it is still subservient to the value of traditional television. Here’s a bit more on that (the article is full of data and worth reading):

“As enamored as advertisers are with the interactive potential of digital advertising, they know that online is a complement to offline, not its replacement. “With television, it’s easier to get a large audience in one fell swoop,” said Shane Ankeney, an executive with the advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Consider that the average American household consists of 2.7 persons and contains 2.9 television sets, in front of which we sit for record-setting spells, according to Nielsen figures. In the quarter ended Sept. 30, the typical American watched 142 hours of television monthly, up about five hours from the same quarter the previous year. Internet use averaged more than 27 hours monthly, an increase of an hour and a half, according to Nielsen.

We are so smitten with screens that we often can’t bear to choose one over another: 31 percent of Internet use occurs while we’re in front of a TV set. We are also taking an interest in watching video on our phones: 100 million handsets are video-capable.”

First of all, I must say that I was surprised at these statistics. To accumulate 142 hours of television in a month, you’d have to watch an average of almost 5 hours per day! This seems too high to me- not in some puritanical way, but just practically. (Of course, this is lower than the Wired article, which stated the average at over 8 hours per day.) How do you squeeze in that much television in a day? I honestly can’t even imagine how, but somehow people are clearly doing it. What I find interesting is that the average amount of internet useage for the same period boils down to under one hour per day! Clearly Newfangled employees are going to be on the fringe here: we spend all day on the internet (so, roughly 7.5 hours per day) and probably comparatively little watching television (several of us don’t even own a tv).

I’ve already marveled at this data in our newsletter from November, specifically in the section on how people use video on the internet. But the really interesting thing is how this will affect business for us and our partners. I’m guessing we’ll be doing much more video-related development this year. In fact, we’ve already seen a pretty sharp increase in video use on our clients’ sites. Is this because people are less inclined to read text now than ever before? I’m not sure, but it seems plausible to me. (This is partly why I included a slideshare presentation in our last newsletter on Google Analytics rather than write a long explanation of our own stats.) So one of our goals is to make our video player technology better and more flexible, including making the player autoconform to the video file’s aspect ratio, giving the user the ability to set a start frame from anywhere in the file or upload an image instead, and making the player useable on any template without requiring developer configuration. We’re not there yet, but we hope to be soon.

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