Fortune - A new study of media and attention by Nielsen Co. confirms what has now become conventional wisdom: Smartphones are winning and traditional television is losing, especially when it comes to viewers in the most desirable 18 to 34 demographic.
Nielsen also says that traditional TV viewing by all age groups
peaked in the 2009-2010 season, and has been on the decline ever since.
Until that point, the audience for TV had grown every year since 1949.
The data underlying
the report shows that among 18 to 34-year-olds, the use of smartphones,
tablets, and TV-connected devices such as streaming boxes or game
consoles increased by more than 25% in May compared with the same period
a year earlier, to about 8.5 million people per minute.
In that same category, TV viewing fell by 10% to 8.4 million people per minute.
Obviously, some portion of the time that these viewers spend on
smartphones, tablets and TV-connected devices is devoted to watching TV
shows. But in many cases they are time-shifted, and the advertising that
comes with them is skipped or removed, which affects Nielsen’s client
Nielsen calls its report
the Comparable Metrics report, because it’s the first time the
measurement company has tried to combine equivalent ratings for usage of
traditional TV and radio with the use of streaming services like
Netflix, mobile devices, and web services like YouTube.
The company also takes pains to point out
that many comparisons of video viewing online through services like
YouTube or Facebook confuse the measurement of actual audiences — in the
sense of people watching a video for multiple minutes at a time over an
hour or more—with the measurement of transitory viewers who are only
present for a few seconds or more.
“It may appear on first glance that tens of millions of video views
is a much larger number than a few million persons in the audience of a
TV program, but the two numbers are reporting completely different
things,” Nielsen says.
“The TV audience expresses viewers in an average minute of the program
rather than across the total duration, as digital media is commonly
reported. The number of persons exposed to a telecast as a whole is a
much larger figure.”
This paragraph can be read as one long veiled reference to a recent
post on Medium from media investor David Pakman of Venrock, former CEO
In that post, which was entitled “May I Have Your Attention Please,”
Pakman talked about how attention has shifted and is continuing to
shift away from traditional forms of media to new platforms such as
Twitch (which streams video people playing video games), as well as
Snapchat and others.
“The behavior of the young is predictive of the future. Facebook,
YouTube, Twitch, Tumblr, Snapchat, Reddit, WhatsApp, Instagram, Vine and
YouNow were all catalyzed by teen use first, and later spread to older
age groups,” Pakman wrote. “If you want to know which companies to bet
on, just follow the attention.” The post got some push-back from a
number of media-watchers, including Joe Marchese of Fox Networks, who
said — in a response very similar to the one Nielsen makes in its report — that this is comparing apples and oranges.
All of these criticisms of vi