The downward pressure on advertising revenue is undoubtedly forcing media owners to think about new ways to make money from their platforms. However, new research has shown that people are still consuming media in much the same way that they always have.
The study, conducted by Deloitte, provides some much-needed good news for commercial TV. It found that the impact advertising has on consumers is significantly increased when ads are viewed on television. When asked to select the top three ad platforms that they felt influenced their purchases to the greatest extent, 84% of respondents chose TV, 54% ranked magazines, and newspapers and online polled 45% each.
'Business models are changing,' says David Fletcher, head of MEC MediaLab at Mediaedge:cia. 'However, where consumers are concerned, it is business as usual.'
Clearly, much depends on the consumer's demographic group. Cinema was ranked by only 11% of all respondents, but a quarter of 14- to 19-year-olds ranked it in their top three.
Denise Turner, head of insight and effectiveness at media agency MPG, suggests that watching how young people consume media is a good indication of where the industry is heading.
'We are seeing a shift toward digital media, but there have been many predictions about which platforms will not survive and they have all been unfounded,' she says. 'The internet was going to kill publishing, but it hasn't. It simply makes it more targeted and, if used together with other media, it can often reach more people.'
When it comes to how much time people spend consuming media, the Deloitte study supports research carried out before the recession kicked in. Consumers were found to spend an average of 16.3 hours a week watching TV. This ranges from an average of 10 hours for 14- to 25-year-olds to 19.5 hours for 62- to 75-year-olds.
Internet use averaged 8.7 hours a week, but, surprisingly, 14- to 25-year-olds spent 7.5 hours online while 43- to 61-year-olds averaged 9.3 hours. Online activity often coincides with TV viewing. Commercial TV marketing body Thinkbox carried out research into the use of TV and internet ads, and found that when used together they were 50% more effective.
Predictably, newspaper-reading habits show a skew toward older audiences. An average of 2.4 hours was recorded by consumers as a whole but 62- to 75-year-olds devote 4.1 hours a week to print papers. Newspaper websites are read for an average of 48 minutes a week. The most prolific online readers are 20- to 61-year-olds, who surf news sites for an average of 54 minutes. Magazines are pored over for 1.8 hours a week, but again, the over-62s spend longer: 2.3 hours a week.
'While the use of online for reading content continues to grow, it is still a different experience to reading a hard-copy newspaper,' says Kevin Murphy, managing director of Zed Media. 'So while online and the development of electronic readers like the Kindle will grow in popularity, and newspaper circulations are dropping, print will still be around for a good while yet.'
If young consumers are setting the trends, it is clear new business models are needed for all media platforms. If News Corp's Rupert Murdoch's prediction that online content will have to be paid for in the future is proved right, consumer habits could change rapidly.
Nonetheless, it is comforting to see that, while the recession may be forcing media owners to think about change more urgently, consumers still return to the activities they love. This can only be good news for media owners and advertisers alike.