Online Media Up, Print Media Down, Community News Holds Steady

Reading A Newspaper in San FranciscoForrester Research has released a report (PDF) that shows that the average U.S. consumer now spends as much time online as he or she spends watching television — roughly 13 hours per week. This figure remains constant across generations, from Gen Yers (18 to 30) to Younger Boomers (45 to 54).

Over the past five years, the amount of time that Americans spend online has increased 121%, meaning they now spend as much time on various Internet activities as they do watching television. TV time has only increased 5% in the same amount of time. Roughly 92% use email, 35% use social networking sites, and 60% shop online. The latter two figures have nearly doubled in the past three years. Researcher comScore estimates that holiday spending so far this season tops $21.95 billion, a 12% increase over 2009.

One factor contributing to the Internet’s gain on TV is the increasing availability of streaming media online, such as Netflix or Hulu, which is becoming a growing source for entertainment. The number of adults streaming media online has nearly doubled to 33% from 18% since 2007.

Mobile devices, particularly smartphones, are another factor to which the increase is attributed. Globally, roughly 200 million Facebook users access the site through a mobile device, for example. A recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 40% of Americans connect to the Internet from a mobile device. The Pew study also found that mobile device usage rose over the past year in eight non-voice data applications, including taking a photo or recording video, text messaging and instant messaging, playing a game, email, accessing the Web, and playing music.

Not surprisingly, offline media media consumption has dropped. Radio listenership is down 15%, readership of print newspapers has dropped 26%, and readership of print magazines is down 18%. Community newspapers are still going strong, however. The National Newspaper Association (NNA) recently completed its fifth readership survey and found that 73% of its respondents read a local paper each week, and 78% read most or all of that paper. Most interestingly, 55% of those going online for local news found it on the local newspaper’s website versus 17% on large news sites such as Yahoo, MSN, or Google.

The Forrester findings are based on a survey of 30,064 U.S. consumers in January and February 2010. The report was compiled by Jacqueline Anderson, Reineke Reitsma, Erica Sorensen, and Michael Munsell. The Pew results are based on data from telephone interviews with a sample of 2,252 adults, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between April 29 and May 30, 2010. The NNA report was based on 670 readership samples in towns with newspapers that have circulations of 8,000 or less. The telephone interviews were conducted in August and October 2010 in partnership with the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Source: “Understanding the Changing Needs of the US Online Consumer, 2010” (PDF), Forrester Research report, 12/13/10
Source: “Mobile Access 2010,” Pew Internet and American Life Project report, 07/07/10
Source: “2010 Community Newspaper Readership Survey Report,” National Newspaper Association report, December 2010
Source: “Community newspapers continue to show strong readership,” Arizona City Independent, 12/15/10
Image by Ed Yourdon, used under its Creative Commons license.

About Rachelle Matherne


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  1. Rachelle,

    Excellent round-up of the statistics related to consumer use of media. I recently wrote a piece for the Minitrends Blog on how advertising spending has lagged behind the shift in media consumption.

    “Print publications occupy only 12% of the amount of time consumers spend with media, yet account for 26% of advertising spending….the Internet takes up 28% of people’s time for media, yet draws only 13% of advertisers’ budgets.”

    Together, these numbers indicate a significant underfunding of online advertising. 2011 might be the year that advertisers start following their audience instead of tradition.

  2. I wonder if there’s any data about the number of Internet users who apply some sort of adblocker to their web browser. Do you think that could have any effect on why advertisers haven’t spent more of their money in online ads?

  3. Well, today Goldman Sachs put nearly $500 million into Facebook equity, which shows that many other people believe online advertising is underfunded, and will grow enough to pay Goldman Sachs back with interest.

    I don’t think blocking software is a significant factor. Just about the only ads you can block are popups, and many sites have gotten around that with intrusive, floating ads.

    I bigger issue is pay-per-click, because advertisers don’t pay every time their ads are served — only when they’re clicked on. So a lot of advertising is free.

    Pay-per-click is not a great model, because advertisers benefit from exposure but do not pay for it. That’s why very little online display advertising is pay-per-click; the advertisers benefit just by being seen.

    I think the slowness in moving to online advertising is mostly the result of a whole industry trying to shift gears. It takes time for the data to be collected, and for it to register enough to change ingrained behavior.


  4. I saw that about Goldman Sachs, and I covered it briefly in tomorrow’s 6E post. Interestingly, one of the sources I found said that online advertising growth surpassed print ad growth for 2010! I’ll be covering related topics more in the near future.