According to eMarketer, U.S. adults spend twelve hours each day consuming media; that amount has increased 24 minutes since 2012. These numbers may seem impossible, but consider that consumption sessions can overlap:
For example, an hour spent watching TV while simultaneously using a smartphone counts as an hour of usage for each medium, and therefore as 2 hours of overall media time.
Here’s how those numbers break down for the average American:
My only takeaway from these numbers, on their own: it’s amazing how much time the average American carves out for TV. I’m at least a little bit jealous.
Here’s my attempt to estimate my own daily media consumption:
- My total consumption hours are almost exactly the same as the average American’s: twelve hours each day. I’m not sure whether to be alarmed or relieved by that.
- My definition for each medium may not match eMarketer’s. For my purposes, “TV” is anything I watch on our big screen—i.e., it includes streaming media (Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime). In my “radio” bucket, I do listen to a bit traditional FM broadcast in the car (mostly NPR). But that category also includes Spotify (instrumental music is the soundtrack for most workdays), podcasts, and my voice-guided meditation app. My ‘radio’ hours are high, but is that because I’ve bucketed things differently?
- Along the same lines, what counts as “consumption”? I use my devices all the time—literally from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep. But for big chunks of the day, I’m making stuff: designing collateral for work, drafting blog posts, recording podcasts, composing emails, etc. I assume that eMarketer is making a similar distinction between active, productive work and passive consumption, but I’m not sure.
- My media consumption on weekdays differs dramatically from what happens on the weekend. For example, during the week, I rarely watch more than one episode of a TV show before I get sleepy and stumble off to bed. On the weekend, though, I’ll often watch a movie or binge on Netflix for several hours.
- Similarly, my smartphone use skyrockets on lazy weekend days; I’m far more likely to exhaust my iPhone battery on a Sunday than on the average work day.
- Looking back, it’s astonishing how much my own habits have shifted in the past few decades. In high school, before I had easy access to the web, I would often spend my study hall flipping through the local newspaper. These days, my print consumption has dwindled to nearly zero—yes, we subscribe to the local newspaper, but I rarely get past the first fold.
- Another big change since my teenage years? Back then, my media world revolved around the TV. Between traditional linear television and console gaming, I probably spent 5–6 hours each day planted in front of the boob tube. Now, I don’t game at all (I haven’t owned a console since the PS2). And even when the TV is on, it sits on the periphery of my attention. TV mostly serves as background noise for my #1 media consumption activity: browsing Twitter on my smartphone. ■