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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

That's a Lot of TV

I challenge the conventional understanding of this new report from Nielsen. The main finding is that American households watch, on average, eight hours and 11 minutes of TV a day, so everybody is like: “Whoah, TV still rules!”

And of course it does. But the thing you have to remember is that this average includes a huge number of senior citizens who do nothing but watch TV all day, every day. And of course we have more senior citizens than ever before. So they’re skewing the figure way up.

I’d be very curious to see a histogram of average TV-watching sliced up by age cohort instead of this monolithic number. I suspect that the 18-25 average, for instance, is still huge, but not that huge. Not even close.


Hans Vervoorn says…

Even in the Netherlands your statement is very well substantiated. The old folks and less educated people watch a lot. Young people have other outside activities and the well educated have other inside activities (like reading a paper or a good book). TV is a loosers medium!

I know that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more devoted to other and newer media, but I still have a habit from childhood of running the television pretty much nonstop when I’m home, even if I’m ignoring it to do other things. Sometimes I’ll even put in a DVD if there’s nothing I feel like ignoring on television. Right now, for example, I’m paying bills, reading Snarkmarket, listening to mp3s on my computer, and intermittently watching local news, all as a break from reading for and writing an article I need to get done by tomorrow.

Think about the 18 to 24 year olds that you know — they usually have an absurd amount of media awareness, much more so than senior citizens. They know a lot about and can give you plot, character, or concept summaries of show’s they don’t like or don’t claim to watch. My hypothesis is that most younger people live in a kind of media saturation, where they partake of several different media simultaneously without devoting much attention to any of them at any given time. It’s not exactly intensive television viewing, but if the rest of the 18-24 demographic is anything like me, we’re holding our own with the older folks.

Laura Portwood-Stacer says…

1) That 8 hours and 11 minutes is actually the amount of time the TV is on. There is no way to measure how much time people spend with their eyes on the screen and their brains engaged. This is one of the most common criticisms of the Nielsen method of audience measurement.

2) High school and college students are the lowest consumers of television. Old news. I think Tim’s hypothesis is probably right though.

3) I rarely use my fancy sounding degree in “Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media” for anything more rigorous than blog commentary or trivial pursuit games. Should that bother me?

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