Young People Not Interested in the Boob Tube

Ratings organization Nielsen Company says that for the first time in 20 years, the number of people in the U.S. who have a television has dropped. Just about everyone still has one, but Nielsen could be smelling a trend.

Nielsen says 96.7 percent of American homes have a TV, versus 98.9 percent last year. There are three possible causes: the cost of owning a television might be too high for some consumers, the digital transition from analog led to a decline that never bounced back, and young people don’t watch TV, but view programming on their computers.

The Times says this could lead to a new category of “Internet viewer.” Most people who don’t have a computer earn less than $20,000 yearly, and there are signal issues for those in rural communities.

In many ways, the tiny drop reported by Nielsen doesn’t impact the overall media strategy. For those that want to reach a large audience, TV is a good way to go. And as we’ve seen recently, when there’s big news — the death of Osama bin Laden or the Royal Wedding are examples — people flock to their TVs.

But people are watching TV and the Internet in tandem (I ran for my Blackberry to get bin Laden news as I waited for the President to speak on TV) or site-specifically (Internet at work and TV at home, for instance). Media strategies take this audience fragmentation into account. But publicists should be taking demographic data and other audience behaviors into account to drill down to their targets even further for even more effective outreach.