US Media Consumption: Where To Find Your Audience 

Where Your Audience Spends Their Time On Media

Smartphone use-US Media ConsumptionThe biggest challenge facing marketers, regardless of company focus or budget, is figuring out where to find your audience.

Specifically, you must figure out where your prospects spend their time on different media platforms and what they use them for. This allows you to present them with contextually relevant content they’ll pay attention to and, hopefully, engage with.

Given the diverse device and content options, today’s media market place is complex. As technology and software evolve, the US media consumption landscape will fragment even more. This will make context a critical defining media element requiring more tailored content and improved distribution especially given how we consume information now.Content Marketing-4 types of consumption -INFOGRAPHIC by Heidi Cohen

To appreciate US media usage and what it means for your marketing, let’s examine the IAB Original Digital Video Consumer Study conducted by GfK (April 2015). Due to differences in respondents, GfK’s results vary from comparable studies published by Nielsen and eMarketer yet are directionally similar. (Here’s 2014 media consumption analysis based on eMarketer.)

Overall US media consumptionSmartphone use-US Media Consumption

From a top level, here’s how people in the US use media devices and how their information habits are evolving. (Unfortunately the GfK’s data doesn’t distinguish between computers, smartphones and tablets.)

  • Television daily viewing was down from 5:27 in 2010 to 4:41 in 2014, a decline of 14%. Given the increased use of other video and information options, television’s decline is no surprise.
  • Internet was up from 2:34 in 2010 to 3:13 in 2014, an increase of 25%. It now accounts for 30% of all US media time. It’s grown largely due to smartphone and tablet use. It offers users concurrent use with other media, time shifting and content snacking.
  • Radio was down from 1:52 in 2010 to 1:44 in 2014, a decline of 7%. With smartphones and other portable devices it’s surprising individuals don’t use more of their own music, radio services (such as Pandora and Spotify), podcasts or audio books.
  • Video games were up from 0:26 in 2010 to 0:43, an increase of 77%. (Note: the large increase is attributable to the small base in 2010.) Video games have benefited from hardware and software improvements. The price points are lower and the content has improved.
  • Newspapers went down from 0:20 in 2010 to 0:16 in 2014, a decrease of 25%. Print options such as newspapers and magazines are the buggy whips of the media industry.  Tweet This
  • Magazines went down from 0:15 in 2010 to 0:12 in 2014, a decrease of 25%.

US Media Usage by Device

Marketing implications based on US media usage by device

Actionable Television Media Marketing Tips: 

  • Test new media options for aggregate or reach to mass audiences equivalent to television.
  • Include related media and content costs you’ll need to yield similar television results and reach when making media decisions.

Actionable Internet Media Marketing Tips: 

  • Extend your other media experiences online to engage your target audience.

Actionable Radio Media MarketingTips: 

  • Examine the potential for adding podcasting to your media offering. Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner is a big proponent of podcasting. (This tip is for marketers.)
  • Extend your radio reach using your website, emailings, blogs and other distribution options such as iTunes. (This tip is for media executives.)

Actionable Magazine Media Marketing Tips: 

  • Test custom magazine publishing. Create a print edition of your content targeted at your existing customers. Content Marketing Institute has a print magazine, Chief Content Officer. (BTW: CEO Joe Pulizzi came out of the magazine industry.)  They reprint key articles on their blog.

Digital US media consumption

Since the Internet accounts for 30% of US media consumption per day, understand how your audience uses it.

  • Social media increased 65% from 26 minutes in 2010 to 43 minutes in 2014. Social media still rules time online. It’s where we connect with family and friends through short comments, images, videos and links. It’s a marketing must but don’t be promotional. (Here’s deeper Pew Internet Research on social media for 2015.)
  • Email increased 8% from 26 minutes in 2010 to 28 minutes in 2014. Email remains the king of online communication. Since it’s owned media, it’s a marketing must have.
  • Online video increased 180% from 10 minutes in 2010 to 28 minutes in 2014. While it’s almost tripled in time spent, online video and email receive the same amount of time. (BTW–We were among the first to predict this 2015 trend.)
  • Search increased 38% from 16 minutes in 2010 to 22 minutes in 2014. A device breakout would be useful since computer time spent on search is much less. Users tend to overestimate the amount of time spent searching. Your content must be mobile friendly or its non-existent. Also, it’s how we navigate the mobile web. It’s a series of searches.
  • Online games increased 46%  from 13 minutes in 2010 to 19 minutes in 2014. While the percentage is big, the actual time spent is still relatively small. It shows that people still look for easy time fillers.

US Media Consumption Online

Marketing implications based on US Internet usage by device

Actionable Social Media Marketing Tips: 

  • Coordinate your social media efforts with your offline marketing. This is increasingly important for television shows.
  • Provide useful information. Skip the me, me, me. Go for the content prospects seek.

Actionable Email Marketing Tips: 

  • Use every opportunity to build your email house file. 
  • Distribute your content marketing via your email lists. (BTW, here are 50 ways to repromote your content.)
  • Make your emailings mobile-friendly. 

Actionable Online Video Marketing Tips: 

  • Supplement your content marketing with videos. Test different types to see what resonates with your customers.
  • Place videos on YouTube to support your search efforts. YouTube is the second biggest search engine.

Actionable Search Marketing Tips: 

  • Optimize your content to appear on search and mobile. Include your phone number, physical address and hours. If someone’s using a smartphone, they’re probably in your neighborhood. Be findable on a major mapping option.
  • Include budget to support your marketing on both search and mobile search.
  • Consider search alternatives based on your business focus. For example, TripAdvisor for travel destinations and hotels.


While I wish I could tell you there was a one-size-fits-all-media-entity you could use to reach your prospects, that probably wasn’t true even during the Mad Men days.

You have to figure out where your target audience spends their time on media and the type of content they actively seek there. This should be part of your marketing persona process.

If you’re not sure, ask your customers and email registrants. Engage with them. They’ll be thrilled with your attention.

Once you know where they spend their time and what they’re seeking, provide that type of information. It’s as simple as: they ask and you answer.

What have you discovered about your audience’s media habits and how have you changed your marketing as a result?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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