Kaiser Family Foundation: Multitaskers Focus on TV


Attention marketers surveying the increasingly sliced and diced media pie: New platforms may be offering young people increasing opportunities to divide their time among multiple forms of media, but television still commands the lion's share of their attention.

That's according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation study of media and multitasking.

Just how divided that attention? The point was driven home by a quote from a 17-year-old respondent to the study.  Kaiser used his words as a pull-quote to lead off the report, which was released Tuesday: "At this very moment, I am watching TV, checking my e-mail every two minutes, reading a newsgroup about who shot JFK, burning music to a CD and writing this message."

TV is the big winner by weight and by volume, meaning not only do kids eight to 18 spend more of their time with TV than any other medium, but when they are watching TV they focus on that and do less multitasking with other media or activities.

The study raises--without answering--the question of whether that multitasking figure will go up when more TV is available on the computer

According to the study, the main secondary activities for TV watchers are eating or doing chores. For  computer use,  the secondary activity is usually another form of media like watching television or listening to music.

So, while watching TV is one of the things people do when they sit down to use the computer, TV watchers do not tend to use other forms of media while engrossed in a television show.  

Not surprisingly, motivation and opportunity appear to be the driver of multitasking. Having a TV in their bedroom makes kids more likely to media multitask, as does living in a highly TV-oriented household. The incredible shrinking media player--i.e. portability--also leads to more multiple media use.

Some of the questions the findings pose for marketers, says Kaiser, include how to reach this divided audience. TV would still appear to be the medium of choice, but will messages placed in different media register? Or-- more problematic-- if the trend toward multitasking continues, can "ultra-multitaskers" ever be reached?

The study, conducted in 2003-2004 was of 2,032 students in 3rd-12th grades who responded to questionnaires as well as a subset of 694 participants who agreed to keep a seven-day diary of media use.