TV, Web, Mobile on the Rise – What’s Taking a Hit?

By Josh Catone
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A new report from Nielsen finds that television viewership is on the rise (at least in the US), hitting record numbers last quarter in terms of viewership, despite gains in web and mobile video consumption. The report found that users are watching an average of 142.5 hours of television per month, and using the Internet for 27 hours each month. Additionally, mobile video consumption is up to 3.5 hours each month.

That’s approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes spent in front of a screen each day. Across the board that represents fairly significant percentage gains year-over-year in terms of screen time (up 4.1% for TV and 5.7% for web use).

Given that we’re increasingly faced with more and more information, and that our attention spans are on a rapid decline, there is a finite amount of our attention to go around. With so much added time being given to screens — television, computer, mobile — something must be taking a hit.

It could be any number of non-digital areas: reading, socializing, sports and recreational activities, productivity at work. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual American Time Use Survey, whose TV numbers are slightly lower than Nielsen’s, the area that seems to have taken the biggest hit over the past five years is socializing and communicating (though it’s a little hard to tell due to changed reporting methodology between the 2003 to 2008 studies).

Reading however, is virtually unchanged. That’s surprising, given that other studies have found declines in reading population over the past few years. The National Endowment for the Arts published a study last year, for example, which concluded that Americans are reading less and reading less well than they were twenty years ago.

Others point out that people are still reading, they’re just doing it in front of a screen now, rather than a printed page. Certainly new types of reading are emerging, but video continues to pull at our attention more and more from every angle.

In any case, our attention is becoming increasingly fragmented and more and more of it is going to the glowing electronic screens in our lives. Is that a bad thing? The current generation is the first to be growing up in a world dominated by television, the web, and mobile phones. Will their increasingly all digital lifestyle be a bad thing in the long run? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo via jakebouma.

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  • Frak

    This is bad.

    Read books.

  • All this really means is: The old “oligopolies” from the past are quickly disintegrating.

    Radio and TV started off with 1,2 channels. It grew, becoming more specialized, etc.

    The same thing is happening now, just at a greater rate.

    Soon we’ll have a new network system in place – one wherein 1 in 3 people wouldn’t have heard about the channels the others are watching/viewing/reading on tv/radio/web.

  • glenngould

    I don’t see a replacement for reading yet. Maybe I’m old minded but I’d prefer to read this blog rather than Josh talking to me in a video.

    I’ve always found it amusing that there are recordings of whole novels to listen in the U.S. I wonder whether it is still popular in there, or has it ever been in the past?

  • jenson

    If you’re staring at your screens whole day long, be it computer monitor, TV, mobile phone, PDA, and etc, you wouldn’t want to do it when you reach home.

    That’s that case a few years back or perhaps for some groups of people, but nowadays, especialy for more IT savvy people, they want to shun away from that, but they eventually find themselves too involved until there’s no way they can really change their lifestyle, or the “screen-staring” culture.

    Talking about reading, yes, it’s right that more and more people are reading “ebooks” off their “screens”, and that’s not always for me, unless it’s properly formatted for smaller screen reading and no emitting extremely bright light into my eyes. I can’t stand staring it and my eyes get very tired easily and I tend to doze off.

    I still prefer reading a “normal” book rather than ebook as it gives me flexibility to refer to part I want to find out more easily and I just flip and flip, that’s it, but then it doesnt give me the portability when I’m on the move. I hate carrying bulky items while I’m moving around. Heavy books make me leave them at home unread, untouched.

    I prefer those well-formatted ebook or online “books” that can fit nicely into smaller screen and not requires one to do frequent scrollings.

    I recently watched this video talking about a study in Japan, stated that more and more people are moving into reading online books, novels, etc and it’s more convenient and well-formatted, especially for those busy working adults who spend their every single free time to read. So that comes to my mind when I read your article.

    I would say that people are not reading less, but reading less in conventional way, and reading more on various type of devices which they bring along with them daily.

    I would say more people prefer to walk around with a single multipurpose gadget rather than two, moreover a book too? Unless you’re carrying a backpack with you, else you would soon find out that bringing so many items together is troublesome and tiring, when what you want to do is just to relax.

    Just my two cents ;-)

  • jenson

    Hi glenngould,

    those books are very convenient to the blinds.

    Imagine reading books with their hands while they’re on the move? They would prefer that when they’re resting in a shaky train or bus, they can read at their ease with these kind of “sound” books?

    Some people, after a long day of reading all sorts of materials, when they want to sit back and relax and read up their favourite book, but too tired to read anymore, would prefer to “listen” to a book, that make them more relax I think ;-)


  • glenngould


    Yeah, great for the blinds, but I’ve seen non-blind people listening those in movies etc.

    I just cannot get how would you enjoy a ‘novel’ when you’re tired or busy driving? It needs even more attention to admire its pleasures than a document written at work.

    Speaking of novels it reminds me the famous Woody allen qoute (I hope I can find it in a minute and add here…found it :) )

    I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.
    Woody Allen