If publishers think they’ve been covering the bases with an anytime, anywhere content strategy, they might be shocked to learn the results of a recent Time Inc. study conducted with Innerscope Research. Digital Natives, defined as consumers who grew up with mobile and digital technology as part of their everyday lives, switch their attention between media platforms an astonishing 27 times per hour.
That was one of the key findings of the study, called "A Biometric Day in the Life," which used biometric monitoring and point-of-view camera glasses to follow the media habits of 30 individuals during 300 hours’ worth of media consumption. Biometric belts measured their emotional responses to various media platforms and the glasses recorded what platform they were viewing.
The other half of the study group consisted of Digital Immigrants, people who encountered and used digital media in their adult lives, who, predictably, have a more mellow media consumption patterns.
"Technology is shaping so much of how people think about media, use media, combine media," say Besty Frank, Time Inc.’s chief research and insights officer. "We’ve started to think about all of these changes in the media specifically as they impact the notion of storytelling. We felt that the biometrics would add a new dimension to what we knew about how people use media and what the implications are for how we run our businesses and how we and our clients communicate with consumers."
The study was particularly interesting, adds Barry Martin, Time Inc.’s executive director of consumer research and insights, because of the ability to record a subject’s emotions as they consumed their media. "We’ve done a lot of biometric work in media labs, but we’ve never been able to do it as they were going about their daily lives," he says.
As an example, the extremely short attention spans of digital natives within their media selections translates to a more flattened emotional range among the media they spend time with—fewer highs and lows. The opposite is true of digital immigrants, who as it turns out, are still fairly active between media, switching 17 times per hour.
Digital natives are, understandably, more emotionally engaged with digital (55 percent with digital, 48 percent with non-digital) while digital immigrants are more emotionally engaged with non-digital media (60 percent non-digital versus 43 percent digital media).
While understanding how media usage among younger and older audiences was important, the focus is on the younger consumers, the future customers of a brand. "What we hoped to do is to understand more specifically what the drivers were and what the behavior was around the elements of time, attention and emotional engagement for younger consumers," says Frank. "In order for us to think about the next generation and how consumers are going to be engaging with our brands it was important to see what younger consumers are doing today."
Whether or not digital natives will remain attention-challenged and trigger happy among their various devices into and through their adult lives remains a question. "It’s not the most satisfying thing for us to learn that they’re changing platforms 27 times an hour," says Frank. "That seems almost impossible to fathom. But it tells us as content producers and advertisers what we need to be thinking about in terms of engaging them quickly and not taking too long to get to the point and doing something emotionally immediate."
Irrespective of the time spent with a particular platform, Frank and Martin were pleased to learn that the study revealed that among the emotional responses to the various platforms—magazines, smartphones, radio, TV, computer, newspaper, tablets—magazines ranked the highest, in the 64th percentile. "We’re in the relaxation business," says Martin. "We’ve heard time and again that women and men talk about magazines as a great time to relax. And to see that in the biometrics is compelling because the emotional engagement with magazines is much higher than any other media form when it was used solo."