The New Multi-Screen World: Insert ADHD Joke Here

September 6, 2012

We spend about five hours per day consuming content, and 90 percent of that time is spent with digital screens — phones, tablets, computers and TVs — leaving an awfully thin slice to time to spend with print and radio. Further, nearly 40 percent of our “media interactions” take place on a smartphone.

Those are just averages, of course, but they’re the headline findings of a survey titled “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior,” conducted by Google and its research partners, examining the media habits of more than 1,600 people during the second quarter of 2012. The Googlers say, “We set out to learn not just how much of our media consumption happens on screens, but also how we use these multiple devices together, and what that means for the way that businesses connect with consumers.”

And use multiple devices together we do. The survey tells us that in 77 percent of the times people watch TV, they’re doing so while fiddling with another device. That’s not just smartphones; one-third of the time, it’s a desktop or laptop computer. (This seems to beg the question: Are they even actually watching TV?)

Shopping is an activity that frequently starts on a smartphone and is finished up on a desktop or laptop; that’s true for 67 percent of people surveyed. Makes sense in that inspiration, discovery or the quest for more information can very easily, spontaneously start while on the go, with a simple, hand-held device, while the clumsier process of typing a credit card number, reviewing shipping options and conducting secure transactions seem easier on a desktop or laptop. However, as we start talking less about reading reviews and articles about new products and more about shopping as browsing, we’re starting to stretch the traditional definition of “media consumption,” it seems.

Also of note: 90 percent of those surveyed used multiple devices to accomplish their goals (such as shopping online, managing finances, planning a trip or simply “browsing the Internet”). The most interesting finding, though, is that consumers primarily rely on search to move from device to device to finish a task — as opposed to directly navigating to the destination site or sending a link to oneself. There seems to be a big opening here for a better solution for starting in one place and picking up in another place.

Then again, maybe emailing myself will do the trick. How do you juggle between devices?