Published May 2nd, 2017
In an annual contest at Coney Island, participants vie to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. It has seemed in recent years that US adults bring a similar spirit to their consumption of media, cramming as much as possible into an average day.
Thanks to multitasking (and our method of accounting for it, explained in a moment), US adults’ average daily time spent with major media will slightly exceed 12 hours this year, according to eMarketer’s latest report, “US Time Spent with Media: eMarketer’s Updated Estimates and Forecast for 2014-2019”.
But while our reports early in the decade told a story of robust gains—with increases in digital usage more than compensating for declines in time spent with nondigital media—growth has been petering out.
Of course, media multitasking is what has made so much usage possible. Like a Coney Island contestant stuffing hot dogs into his mouth with both hands, people are often using multiple media at the same time.
That is how the figure for time spent can add up to 12 hours a day. And note our method of accounting for simultaneous usage: If someone spends an hour watching TV (for example) and uses a smartphone to surf the web during the same hour, we count this as an hour of usage for each medium, and hence as 2 hours of total media time.
One might have thought average time spent with smartphones by users would decline as the smartphone population broadened far beyond early adopters and technophiles.
Instead, average time spent among users has steadily increased.
eMarketer estimates that nonvoice time spent per day by smartphone users will have risen from 2 hours 18 minutes in 2014 to 2 hours 42 minutes by 2019.
The proliferation of apps is clearly a factor in this increase. More and more of the digital universe is designed to cater to smartphones, and this often takes the form of apps. For users of smartphones—and, to a slightly lesser extent, users of tablets—time spent using those devices mostly means time spent using apps.
And the preeminence of apps vs. the mobile web grows year by year.
Time spent with the mobile web via smartphones is expected to decline throughout the forecast period, while time spent with it via tablets ticks up just slightly. During those same years, in-app time on both devices is expected to grow strongly—though the rate of increase slows in the later years. eMarketer estimates that in-app smartphone time will have increased by 42 minutes per day between 2014 and 2019.
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