Multitasking TV Viewers Typify The Voracious Media Consumer

November 21, 2011

It’s rare my fiancée and I will sit and enjoy a television show without a laptop open or our iPad and iPhones aglow. “Parks & Recreation,” “The Office,” “60 Minutes,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” — we very much enjoy the shows we watch and we both will argue there has never been more quality programming available. We just so happen to multitask while enjoying it.

Turns out we’re not alone.

A recent study by Yahoo found television alone just isn’t enough for most audiences, as 75 percent of Internet surfers are browsing while watching television. Break it down by device and tablet users are the biggest multitaskers:

Yahoo featured the study on its advertising blog, but the findings confirm what sharper PR and marketing professionals have come to realize. These days, consumers have a voracious, irresistible hunger for media, and it’s completely telling that a favorite television show or big game can no longer completely engross viewers.

Take me, for example. During a single televised Minnesota Vikings game, I keep close watch of my fantasy football team on ESPN.com, I post about the game on Twitter and Facebook, I read player bios on Wikipedia, I read rapid reaction from bloggers, I review statistics on Football Outsiders and I monitor other games on NFL.com. It’s not that I’m distracted. I’m just interested in the broader context of the game and I don’t allow television to limit my experience.

Think about what the multitasking television viewer means for public relations. In the past, landing a client on the six o’clock news gave marketers a chance to positively shape a story and influence consumers. Altogether, a nice win. Now, television is just a jumping off point. You get your client a glowing three-minute segment, that’s just the start. The same consumer you’re trying to reach might visit your client’s website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter account before the segment ends.

The lesson for PR pros? There’s no sense in separating traditional and digital media strategies while consumers are devouring both forms simultaneously. Tell your client’s story on television and viewers will come to the Internet with questions of their own. Viewers aren’t distracted by their devices. The reality is they’ve never been more engaged.