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Young 'Digital Natives' Switch Media Every Two Minutes

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Digital Natives, consumers who grew up with mobile technology, subconsciously move between devices and media platforms (e.g., TV, tablets, and smartphones) far more frequently than Digital Immigrants, those who learned about mobile technology in their adult lives, according to a study by Time Inc.

The new report highlights the challenges for content creators and marketers in engaging younger audiences, raised on a diet of modern, multi-platform media.

Below, additional findings from the study titled "A Biometric Day in the Life" conducted by Innerscope Research for Time Inc

On average, Digital Natives switch their attention between media platforms 27 times per hour, about every other minute, whereas Immigrants switch their attention between media 17 times per hour:



Digital Natives show low emotional involvement with media content

Because Digital Natives spend more time using multiple platforms simultaneously, their emotional engagement with content is constrained, thus limiting the range of emotional responses (i.e., fewer emotional highs and lows).


As soon as they grow tired or bored, Digital Natives turn their attention to something new, effectively using media to regulate their mood.

Natives consumer more media than Immigrants 

Digital Natives spend more of their non-work day using various media: 

  • Digital Natives spend 71% of their non-work day using media (vs. 29% in non-media activities).
  • Digital Immigrants spend 64% of their non-word day using media (vs. 36% in non-media activities). 
Natives spend more time using digital media

Natives divide their time equally between digital (49%) and non-digital media (51%), whereas Immigrants spend most of their time with non-digital media (68%).

Digital Natives spend more time than Immigrants engaging with social media and text messaging: 

  • 85% of Natives send or receive text messages on a typical day (i.e., during the previous day), compared with 52% of Immigrants.
  • 80% of Natives send or used Facebook at least once during the previous day, compared with 57% of Immigrants.  


However, Digital Natives spend less time watching TV and making phone calls with their home phone: 

  • 55% of Natives turned on a TV to check weather or news at least once during the previous day, compared with 78% of Immigrants.
  • 31% of Natives made a call using their home phone at least once during the previous day, compared with 57% of Immigrants.

Implications for marketers

Digital Immigrants are intuitively linear—they want to see a beginning, a middle, and an end to a story, according to the report. 

For Natives, stories still need a beginning, middle and end. However, Natives will accept a story in any order. Because Digital Natives are subconsciously switching between platforms, they can pick up different pieces of a story from different mediums in any order.

"This study strongly suggests a transformation in the time spent, patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans like never before," said Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and chief scientist, Innerscope Research.

"Storytellers and marketers in this digital age will continue to face an increasingly complex environment with a higher bar for engaging an audience of consumers."

About the research: For the study, 30 participants (15 Digital Natives and 15 Digital Immigrants wore biometric belts, which measured their emotional engagement throughout their normal day, and point-of-view glasses with embedded cameras that monitored which medium or platform they were using and when they altered their visual attention. The study was conducted over the course of 300 hours during the fourth quarter of 2011.


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