In its recent study Profiles of the U.S. Entertainment Consumer, EPM Communications analyzes how Americans are responding to their ever-increasing media options. The report aggregates data from more than 125 sources, shedding light on entertainment consumer behavior and new delivery channels. EPM highlights trends from 2005’s highest average concert tour ticket (The Rolling Stones, $133.98) to the $188.94 the average American family of four spends on a night out.
In large part, the report is an attempt to quantify the time and money spent on media exposure—a term that evokes sunburn and U.V. rays. Americans are “spending almost two thirds of an average 12-hour day exposed to some type of media, more time than they’re spending on any other lifestyle activity, including socializing.” Americans are awash in entertainment. “The typical U.S. household owns more than 100 music CDs, more than 40 movie DVDs, and 16 videogames,” says EPM.
The report cites a Ball State University Middletown Media Study in which researchers observed nearly 400 people. On average, “2.75 hours involved concurrent exposure to two or more media.” Book publishing can be thankful that multi-tasking consumers are not casting traditional entertainment by the wayside. “They’re spending more time than ever using new media—such as computers, the Internet, and videogames—without cutting back on time spent with ‘old’ media such as TV, print and music,” EPM reports. “The truth is, many of us grew up reading with music on or the TV in the background,” says EPM Communications President Ira Mayer.
Younger generations might be incorporating books into their media-mixing lifestyles, but it’s no secret that television and the Internet drive the entertainment market. Just how big is book publishing’s slice of the daily pie?
The Middletown Media Study found that its subjects read books on average for 45 minutes per day, out-performing newspapers (31.1 min/day) and magazines (23.8 min/day). Although books may lead the print world, they pale in comparison to even antiquated technology like the VCR (69.2 min/day). The average consumer spends three times as much time with the Internet (137.4 min/day), while television trumps all, topping 4 hours daily.
When asked what challenges and comparisons immediately come to mind for the book industry, Mayer replied, “There are (and always have been) many parallels between the book and music industries. Both struggle with cost of distribution and returns issues. Barriers to entry have tumbled, meaning more and more people can make their creative works available independently.” With more artists than ever producing finished products, Mayer added, “the competition for resources—which comes down to distribution and marketing more than anything else—becomes that much more fierce.”
This frenzied market is driving innovation as artists and companies test new revenue streams. “No one expected TV viewers in major cities to pay for cable,” Mayer said. “No one thought satellite radio had a chance. Why would you need a different ring tone on your phone?” Technological advances fuel further change as consumers embrace a wider range of delivery methods. In a cited study, PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts “that new spending streams triggered by broadband Internet and wireless technologies will increase from $11.4 billion in 2004 to nearly $73 billion worldwide in 2009.” The proliferation of this technology has sparked a revolution in on-demand content. “Already, more than 35% of Americans consider themselves ‘heavy’ or ‘medium’ users of devices such as DVD recorders, DVRs, Blackberries and MP3 players or services such as VOD,” says EPM.
While artists compete for coveted professional distribution and marketing in this sea of options, media companies fight (and smart ones partner) for the fickle attention of today’s choice-laden consumer. EPM Communications quotes Jack Klues of Starcom MediaVest Group — “Winning today is about engagement more that it is about reach. We need data that helps us touch people’s passions.” Mayer added, “Data will help target appropriate works to the right audiences, but the bottom line is touching people’s passions – back to good stories well told. No amount of data will help without that.”