The Digital Omnivore in the Wild: Multiple Screens, Multitasking, Data Hungry

By Steve Anderson March 20, 2013

It may sound a little like something from Animal Planet, but today's release of the seventh installment of Deloitte's "State of the Media Democracy" survey is showing some very unexpected things about the overall media landscape, and about the rise of a new kind of media consumer: the digital omnivore.

The Deloitte study shows that there has been a 160 percent growth in the total number of digital omnivores out there, that is, users that own not only a laptop, but also a tablet and a smartphone. That number now encompasses just over one in every four consumers--a full quarter of the market--and they're all hungry for data access. The reports indicate that they easily switch from one screen to another as the situation warrants, and require plenty of bandwidth to fuel their rapid switching.

But the Deloitte study was about more than just a major new potential market segment; it also showed off some much more generalized affairs. For instance, the survey revealed that tablet ownership is up fully 177 percent over last year, nearly triple the total. A third of tablet owners revealed that the tablet was one of their three favorite devices, and smartphones and laptops weren't far behind. Smartphone ownership is up 28 percent, and laptop levels are still described as "strong."

The Deloitte study also had some further word about just what users were using these devices to do. Tablet owners, for example, stream movies 70 percent more often than those who don't own tablets, and intend to watch movies more often than any other video content in the next year. Additionally, 80 percent of users multitask while watching television.

What's more, gaming consoles are rapidly becoming the preferred means of connecting a television to the Internet, with 31 percent doing so. 20 percent of consumers call video games a "top three media activity," including across mobile and social gaming, and online video gaming subscriptions are up 47 percent. Millennials--those aged 14 to 23--have nearly doubled their frequency of watching video online, leading to the "cable nevers" (also known as "cord nevers") crowd of those who have never actually had--nor even feel they needed--cable service. Indeed, the study also showed that fully 93 percent of Americans call Internet access the most valuable subscription in the household. 72 percent--in a number that went up 20 percent since just last year--have a computer network or a router in their homes.

The study may want to be taken with a grain of salt, as it covered just over 2,100 consumers in the United States aged 14 and older. Using 2,100 consumers as the basis for describing the behavior of over 300 million may be a bit tough for some to swallow. But still, a lot of what emerged from the Deloitte report really only cements what we have already been hearing for some time.

For instance, we have been hearing about the cable cutting phenomenon for some time, as well as the somewhat more emergent "cord never" concept, with kids so used to getting their television online--be it from Netflix, Hulu, or BitTorrent--that they never saw a point to getting cable service in the first place. We also heard recently about the growing number of Internet-connected devices in American homes, as The NPD Group brought out word about the rising number.

One thing is clear, however: the changing environment and growing numbers pose some very big questions, and equally big possibilities.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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