Active v. Passive Media Consumption

November 5th, 2009

More adults interact with televisions than newspapers, so says a Nielsen study from the Council for Research Excellence (CRE). Not surprising.

How about this: more adults connect to broadcast radio than the Internet. Put another way, radio reaches more adults in the U.S. than the Internet. Surprised?

The study, which physically observed adults during their media consumption, found: 95 percent of adults see live television; 77 percent hear broadcast radio; 64 percent use the Web; 35 percent read a newspaper; and, 27 percent read magazines.

From a public relations perspective, one could easily look at this chart and say, “Let’s put all of our marketing effort into TV and radio.” You’d be wrong. The problem with this chart is it shows penetration by media. It doesn’t show the level of user “activeness” or “passiveness.”

This percentage of penetration is inversely related to the level of activity or passivity – with watching TV as the most passive and reading a magazine as the most active. Take your own consumption as an example. How often is a TV on, but you’re not watching actively? Do you listen to a radio while multitasking, doing things like driving, cooking or exercising? Now, what about if you read a print newspaper or magazine? Are you doing anything else? Probably not.

The category not in the equation is the Internet, which is split among active and passive involvement. Video and audio elements on the web are making it more passive, while social media and other interactive elements are making it more active.

A proper marketing and public relations campaign should be well balanced – it must reach key audiences through active and passive means.

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media, Public Relations
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