Teens Making Time for Digital and Traditional Media

Don’t get too caught up in the hype of digital media usage. That is a key message of “How Teens Use Media,” a new research report by The Nielsen Company that it will present here Thursday at its annual “What Teens Want” conference. 

“The notion that teens are too busy texting and Twittering to be engaged with traditional media is exciting, but false,” according to the executive summary. Instead of replacing traditional media with new media consumption, teens are simply making time for both, it concludes. Nielsen is the corporate parent of Mediaweek.

Other myths that the report debunks are that teenagers’ preferences differ vastly from adults, that teens’ media and entertainment spending is insulated from the recession (they actually reduce it, with out-of-home entertainment more affected than in-home) and that traditional advertising can’t resonate with teens (once ads break through the clutter, teens like them more).

The leading type of media use among teens is still television, with the average teenager watching 3 hours and 20 minutes per day, countering the myth of YouTube as the lead medium. Actually, Nielsen says that teens watch more TV than ever, with usage up 6% over the past five years in the U.S.  

In comparison, a typical teen only watches about 11 minutes of online video per day, Nielsen found, or an average of about 3 hours per month. That is much less than adults ages 18-24 who watch 5 hours and 35 minutes per month and even less than adults ages 35-44 who watch 3 hours and 30 minutes per month, according to the study, which compiled data from across Nielsen’s media measurement businesses and its biannual global survey of consumers across 50 countries.

“Teens watch less online video than most adults, but the ads are highly engaging to them,” the summary of the Nielsen report says. “Teens spend 35% less time watching online video than adults 25–34, but recall ads better when watching TV shows online than they do on television.”

The most popular site for online video among teens is YouTube, but networking sites MySpace and Facebook, as well as Hulu are also popular choices.

The second-most popular medium among teens is the PC (including applications), with an average of 52 minutes per day. The Internet, with an average of 23 minutes per day, comes in third, according to Nielsen.

However, teenagers also spend less time on the Internet than other demos, spending only 11 hours and 2 minutes online per month – less than half of the 29 hours and 15 minutes that the average user spends on the Internet each month. The report attributes this to the fact that teens in school are less likely than working adults to be sitting in front of a computer all day.

While parents and teens may argue about programming choices, the youngsters’ preferences are not much different as U.S. teens’ favorite TV show (”American Idol”) and top Web site (Google), as well as teens’ favorite TV genre around the world (general dramas) are in line with overall preferences. Or as the Nielsen report states: “Teens are unique, but they are not as bizarre and outlying as some might presume.”

Nic Covey, director of insights at The Nielsen Company, will present highlights from the report Thursday.

Other key findings of the study include:
* Half of all teenagers use an audio-only mp3 player each day, while one in four watch video on an mp3 player.
* On an average day, one in four teens reads the newspaper.
* While teens multi-task in their media usage, this behavior may actually be lower than among adults.
* South African, Venezuelan and Indonesian teens are the biggest couch potatoes.
* 35% of U.S. teens may have DVRs, but they prefer live TV viewing.