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A new report from Nielsen, the TV ratings people, shows not only what we're watching, but how we're watching it.
It used to be very simple. A program was on at a certain time and either you watched it when it aired or you didn't see it at all. No DVRs or video on demand. Not even home recording on VHS or Beta.
But today, viewers have so many choices -- not only what to watch from among hundreds of channels and tens of thousands of shows and movies on demand and Netflix and Hulu. The choice now is also about how to watch -- live or delayed on your giant flat screen or on a variety of other smaller screens from computers to laptops to tablets and phones.
The report says Americans watched "traditional" TV 141 hours a month in the 3rd quarter of 2014. But live viewing dropped a little more than 4 percent, or 12 minutes a day, to 4 hours and 32 minutes on average. Instead, we spent an hour more per month watching time-shifted programs via the internet, which includes streaming services like Netflix.
For advertisers, the obvious challenge is getting their ads seen despite fast-forwarding. Many on-demand outlets now disable the fast-forward function so we can't zip through the ads. So instead, it may end up working the way it did in the "old days," when commercials breaks meant a run to the bathroom, refrigerator or a fast click around the dial to see what else is on. Or with today's technology, we might be checking texts and emails.
In a few weeks, longtime ad columnist Stuart Elliott will pen his last column for The Times. He announced on his Facebook page this morning that he will be taking "the very generous buyout" the paper's been offering to longtime reporters and editors, as it tries to reduce its newsroom headcount by 100.
Others who will be leaving by year-end include bylines we've been reading for some time, like Bill Carter on the TV industry.
But Stuart's departure will leave a real gap in The Times business section. He's written beautifully over the years about new campaigns, agency mergers and buyouts, marketing and advertising trends and, often after long holiday weekends, the 10 or 20 humorous questions he raises, always capped with the self-deprecating final statement "for a guy from Brooklyn, you ask a lot of questions."
I've always looked forward to reading Stuart's columns, in the paper and also online. And I'm pleased to say, while we're not close friends, I've had a cordial professional relationship with him. I've always tried to respect him by only pitching him story ideas that I honestly felt were on target, often telling a client "sorry, that's just not for Stuart." And he's treated me with respect, always repsonding to my calls or emails, even if, sometimes, to patiently explain why an idea just isn't for him.
He's been the longest-running ad columnist at The Times, going back to 1991. In terms of longevity, he beat out legendary ad columnist Phil Dougherty, who preceded him, by a year.
Actually, I go back with Stuart to 1990, when he was the ad writer at USA Today. I had just started my own PR business, and an early client was agency Geer DuBois -- a name, like so many others, now just a memory for us oldtimers. He did a nice piece on a new campaign by Geer client YooHoo chocolate drink.
I recall meetings with him and clients like media guru Gene DeWitt in the cafeteria at the old Times building on West 43rd, or more recently at his breakfast haunt at the Royalton on West 44th St.
I'm sorry to see him go, but I know there are many opportunities waiting for him, if he chooses. Or who knows... maybe there's a book in the offing.
Whatever he chooses to do, I know I'm among many who wish him the best and thank him for his good work over the years.
Bill Bergman, a marketing instructor at the University of Richmond's B-school, notes an interesting trend in a recent commentary in MediaPost's Agency Daily. He says college students he's teaching seem to be afraid to speak out in class for fear of being embarrassed by classmates who might call them out via social media. So they keep their hands down in class and their mouths shut.
These are kids, he says, who have grown up seeing the impact of a mistake or bad judgment on social media. They've seen firsthand that once something is online it can haunt you forever, possibly impacting one's ability to land a job or get into grad school.
So rather than get called out via a tweet, they seem to keep their opinions to themselves, Bergman believes. He thinks, from what he sees in his students, that by the time they reach their senior year in college, they hit a social media saturation point. It's not that social media has lost its importance to them, but rather they're getting caught up with other priorities and pressures that demand their attention -- studies and the upcoming hunt for the next step in their lives, finding a job or continuing thier education.
Bergman notes recent grads seem to be less involved with social media than current students. The explanation, he writes, may be "a boss, a cubicle and a 10 p.m. bedtime help diminish the social media habit." And they realize, as they mature, that it's more important to protect your real personality than to build "a contrived popularity" through silly or controversial tweets and potentially awkward photos posted on Instagram.
After college, he writes, young adults "begin to recognize that college is really created for the young - and so too is the extensive use of social media platforms."
Americans are fed up with news coverage that puts emphasis on gossip, celebrities, sports and sensationalism.
You wouldn't guess that if you watch most TV news or read many newspapers. But that's what a recent Harris Poll discovered, as reported in Media Daily News.
The poll, taken in August, found that 76 percent of American adults feel celebrity gossip and scandal gets too much news coverage. Forty-five percent say entertainment in general gets too much coverage, and 41 percent feel that way about pro sports.
The poll also found that some issues are believed to get too little news attention. Forty-seven percent cited education issues, 45 percent cited science, 44 percent said government corruption, followed by global humanitarian issues at 33 percent and health issues at 30 percent.
If this survey is accurate,there may yet be hope for real news. But it's a big IF. Let's face it -- when people fill out surveys, they generally want to appear more highbrow than they really are. So they may say there's too much gossip and trash on TV, even as they tune into it and then talk about it online via social media.
The proliferation of gossip and soft news may be why the level of trust in media continues to drop. The same Harris poll showed only 25 percent place great confidence in local TV news and even less -- 21 percent -- in their local newspapers. Network TV news is trusted by only 17 percent.
Online news sites not affiliated with a "traditional" news outlet had only 11 percent confidence among those polled. Well, at least they got that right.
Less than half of us now watch TV programs as they air live, Media Daily News reports.
Only 41 percent of us watch the live broadcast, as time-shifting grows in popularity. Watching via DVR is what 43 percent of us now do, as 19 percent use video on demand.
The move to viewing TV on so-called second screens -- mobile devices, PC, laptops and tablets -- isn't happeniong quite as quickly as pundits had been predicting. The vast majority -- 91 percent -- still watch TV on a TV. Laptops account for 12 percent of viewing, tablets 5 percent and somehow 3 percent manage to watch programs on their smartphones. It adds to more than 100 percent due to duplication -- watching on a regular screen and also on a second screen.
Programs like sports and major news events understandably score a higher amount of live viewing.
More about Twitter than I can say in 140 characters...
The latest internet consumer study, reported in Mediapost's Social Media & Marketing Daily, shows Twitter, which was touted as the next best thing when it burst onto the scene, has slipped a bit.
The percentage of respondents using Twitter dropped two points to 34%. Twitter remains a major social media factor, though, behind Facebook and LinkedIn. FB remains the gorilla in the room, dominating with 77% of consumers saying they use it. LinkedIn is a distant second at 37%, followed by Twitter. Newer platform Pinterest jumped to the number four spot with 26%.
Highlighting the fickleness of social media (or maybe more the fickle nature of teens), FB continues to lose younger users who are migrating in droves to Pinterest. It's the platform of the day. (Remember MySpace?)
Twitter has proven popular as a way for fans of TV shows to share their thoughts in real-time as a show airs. And reality contest shows like NBC's "The Voice" have used Twitter not only to engage viewers, but also as an instant voting tool to let viewers decide if a contestant stays or goes.
The survey found that 52% of those who don't use Twitter make that choice because they feel it's "a waste of time." I have to admit that was my initial impression when I joined soon after the platform launched. It seemed that all I saw was people tweeting really inane things like "The sun just came up" or "Can't decide whether to have a blueberry or corn muffin." Like I care (about the muffin, not the sun).
I have found Twitter useful as a way to point people to my blog posts. And early on, I participated in a few PR chats in real-time. Didn't learn anything about PR, but it got me many of my almost 1,000 followers.
So despite the dip in the latest user survey, I'm pretty sure Twitter will be around for some time, even as new platforms continue to pop up. By the way, I couldn't have expressed these thoughts in 140 characters. Blogging is still alive and well, despite predictions that it, like Twitter, would disappear.
On Aug. 28, 1922 -- 92 years ago -- radio station WEAF in New York City aired a ten-minute pitch promoting affordable co-op apartments in Jackson Heights, Queens. The developer paid AT&T, which owned the station, $50 for the airtime.
It was the first ad on radio in the U.S., bringing dramatic change to a new form of mass communication.
The ad helped the developer sell several apartments, which brought the interest of retailers including Macy's and Gimbels, who soon became sold on the power of radio advertising.
It's interesting that David Sarnoff, who headed RCA, which soon after bought WEAF, had been vehemently against using broadcast stations for commercial purposes. RCA established stations and aired free programming simply as a way to create consumer demand for the Radiola radio sets that RCA built and sold. He eventually gave in and NBC, which Sarnoff built, had stations throughout the country whose programming was used to sell ad time, eclipsing revenues that came from selling the radio sets themselves. For decades, primetime programming on the major radio networks was produced by ad agencies and paid for by their clients.
That $50 spot 92 years ago has evolved into a $140 billion industry, with ads supporting 11,350 radio stations throughout the U.S. -- 4,726 AM stations and 6,624 FM outlets.
I wrote a while back about the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the nation's most respected daily papers, cutting back to three print editions a week, putting its daily coverage online. The folks in NoLo were not at all happy about it, but the owner and publisher of the Times-Picayune is newspaper mega-publisher Advance Publications, and they've been making similar moves with many of their other papers throughout the country.
So here's some encouraging news that says the paper will publish five days a week beginning in September, to satisfy advertisers who want to connect with readers during football season. It's about getting more ad dollars, really, but it will help local readers too and maybe, with some luck, the publisher will continue the expanded print schedule after football has ended.
Here's how it was reported this morning in MediaLife...
The New Orleans Times-Picayune is slowly walking back on the decision made two years ago to publish a print edition only three days a week.
The newspaper has decided to add home delivery of a Saturday and Monday edition this fall, Advance Publications announced recently.
The decision coincides with the football season, beginning Sept. 6 and lasting until the hometown New Orleans Saints’ last game, which could go all the way through to February.
The extra papers will come at no cost to print subscribers, who usually receive Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday editions.
“Our readers’ interest peaks in the fall and so does our advertisers’ desire to reach them,” the paper said in an article announcing the change. “We are expanding our print coverage to meet the heightened reader intensity and to serve our advertisers, who depend on us to reach their customers.”
We keep hearing how print is dying, but it looks like that doesn't apply to magazines.
Data from a media research firm that tracks some 200 magazines, reported recently in Media Daily News, shows print magazines had a combined increase in audience of 1.1 percent -- up some 20 million readers from a year ago. The combined print audience is now 1.19 billion.
Total audience of digital-only magazine readership went up 37 percent to 23.2 million. Digital-only is still a small piece of the total audience pie for magazines, but it's growing.
Some of the biggest gainers are familiar names: The Atlantic, up 42 percent; Esquire, up 29.5 percent; Harpers Bazaar, 25.2 percent; Fitness, 21.6 percent; Forbes, 20.5 percent; Travel & Leisure, 19.3 percent; and yes, The New Yorker, up 18 percent.
Magazines in print are still alive. That's good news.