US Daily Media Consumption (Charts)

What You Need To Know About How Americans Consume Media

US Daily Media ConsumptionUS daily media consumption underscores a key challenge many Americans face.

Are you one of them?

Do you try pack more activity into less time?

Multi-tasking, as tracked by media consumption, fills our lives.

Multi-tasking gives us the sense that we’re accomplishing more. But the reality is that we’re not.

In fact multi-tasking reduces our effectiveness! We don’t have time to focus or reflect on what we’re doing. This yields lower results.

Multitasking research on a group of smarties, namely MIT and Stanford students, revealed that heavy multitaskers are distracted. 

If these above average performers can’t focus, what about us mere marketing mortals?

This inability to focus and reflect has important implications for you as a marketer. Your content marketing, communications and advertising must not only reach your target audience but also get attention, focus and action (engagement and sales).

US daily media consumption: The data

To better understand your target audience, let’s examine the data.

US Daily Media Consumption


US adults spend an eye-popping 11+ hours per day with media.

Put in context, this is more than half of a waking day.

Marketing implication:

Most media consumption isn’t focused. Most people do more than sleep and consume information. 

Like other activities, we fit content media consumption into shorter timeframes often while multitasking. Therefore, media consumption is often a secondary activity. Our goal is to maximize information intake and minimize unnecessary advertising.

Content Marketing- 4 Types of Consumption - INFOGRAPHIC by Heidi Cohen


Caveat: Different research firms get different results. This is attributable to how they define different activities, what they track and how they project results to a broader population.

US daily media consumption – 2 different sources

  • eMarketer forecasts Americans now spend 12 hours and 5 minutes a day with media. eMarketer bases their forecasts on a variety of sources.
  • Nielsen projects Americans spend 10 hours and 39 minuets a day with non-print media. (Adding in 28 print minutes from eMarketer yields 11:07 hours with media.) Historically, Nielsen is a reliable go-to broadcast media tracking resource. It’s media is more granular.

The major Nielsen and eMarketer differences are:

  • Non-digital TV. Nielsen estimates an hour more of non-digital tv viewing. It consists of extra half-hour of traditional television viewing and another half-hour of time shifted television.
  • Non-digital radio. Nielsen’s data is about 20 minutes higher than eMarketer.
  • Print. Nielsen doesn’t include print media. Therefore, adding eMarketer’s 28 minute estimate is the only data available. There’s a good likelihood that print media audiences are older or travelers looking for something to occupy their waiting time. 
  • Mobile. Nielsen breaks out the difference between smartphones and tablets. The growth is in tablets.

Note: Expect the Internet of Things to increase information consumption. This includes home and car devices. It’s too soon to have reliable data.

3 Key US Daily Media Consumption Findings: What marketers need to know

As marketer, US daily media consumption has 3 key implications for your ability to reach and serve information to your audience.

1. Non-digital media consumption remains relatively stable

Although shrinking slightly over time, a 4 hour daily television consumption rate means we still watch a lot of tv. Television is roughly a third of US media consumption. Television retains the dominant portion of media time. TV’s diverse offering and smaller related audiences make advertising and media buys challenging.

Non-digital radio accounts for about 1.5 hours or one eighth of total US daily media consumption. This is a third more than digital radio. It’s most likely background drive time. Downloaded digital audio is a big opportunity.

Mobile media (including both smartphones and tablets) continues to increase. It’s mainly smartphones. Digital video viewing has the potential to increase PC/computer time. Further, car devices may disrupt the landscape. It’s too early to project this change. 

Overall there’s a move towards digital media consumption but it’s not happening as fast as expected. It can be described as shared versus personal media. What is playing around you versus what you directly focus on.

The biggest marketing implication: Advertising placement isn’t aligned with media consumption, as Kleiner Perkins’s Mary Meeker pointed out.



2. Racial differences in media consumption

Nielsen broke out US media consumption by race. These numbers should be viewed as directional. They don’t include print consumption.

African Americans consume 13 hours and 17 minutes of media per day. That’s more than half a day! The increase is largely in television viewing. Most likely, television is a background for other activity.


Hispanics consume 9 hours and 26 minutes of media per day. Hispanics consume the most smartphone content and less than average television consumption. US Hispanics are a diverse demographic. Many marketers overlook this. It’s particularly important in terms of years in the US, dominant language used, and country of origin.


Asian-Americans consume 7 hours of media per day. (Note: We’ve added 1:30 hours of radio that don’t appear in this chart.) Asian Americans consume the least media. 



3. Age influences US daily media consumption

It’s no surprise US daily media consumption differs by age. It reflects how media has evolved over people’s lifetimes.

Older Americans prefer more traditional media and younger Americans prefer digital media. They’re more tech-savvy and use a variety of ways to get their television fix.

(Note: These are percentages, not numbers.)


Interestingly, non-digital radio is used the same amount (17%) across age groups.

Actionable US Daily Media Consumption Tips

Now that you understand how Americans consume media, what does this mean for your marketing?

1. Attract and retain audience attention regardless of media device

Attention is the scarce commodity for marketers and customers alike. Assess how your content and communications will pull your target audience in and provide value to them. Remember your objective is to keep visitors returning for more of your content.


2. Becoming a part of your target audience’s inner content circle is critical.

Given diverse media device options, you must become an information source your audience actively seeks.

  • Build and maintain a relationship with your audience across platforms. Get visitors to seek your content regardless of platform.
  • Offer content in a format that your audience prefers. Your audience takes in information differently. Use text, photographs/images, video, and audio.


3. Be findable across relevant media devices.

While search is considered a digital function, it’s an offline challenge as well. For years, TV Guide succeeded by providing show listings.

Expect mobile, visual, video and audio search to continue to grow and evolve. Ask: Where does your content need to be listed to reach your audience?

US daily media consumption bottomline:

Americans consume a lot of media. This means a lot of content marketing and advertising. 

US daily media consumption research provides the following key insights to help you create better content marketing and advertising:

  • Where does your audience get their information and entertainment? What media sources do they automatically go to?
  • What types of media devices do they use to obtain content? This influences the context where they are. Also, how focused they are on your content.
  • What content formats they prefer? Use a variety of text, images, video, and audio. Bear in mind that video may be used only for slideshow images or only for the audio.
  • When do they seek the information? This influences when you distribute the information. Think timing and dayparting.
  • Why do they seek the content? Consider your audience’s motivation and needs from the content.

BUT since a lot of this media consumption is a secondary activity, your audience is distracted by multitasking.

Since you can’t change multitasking, use US daily media consumption data to help your marketing message get through the clutter and stand out to your audience.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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