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Study: Teen Girls More Likely to Multi-task Media

A popular theory nowadays is that the proliferation of cellphones, Internet and MP3 players has created an increasingly isolated -- or at the very least, socially selective -- populace, particularly among teens, who are avid users of new media forms.

But Jim Geoghegan, president of New York–based media planning agency Media Head, disagrees with that conclusion. Rather than using new types of media to put distance between themselves and others, teens -- particularly girls -- use the Internet, e-mail, text- and instant-messaging to stay connected. Advertisers who want to reach them should take advantage of girls’ multi-media usage tendencies, Mr. Geoghegan argues.

He bases his position on the results of a study on the media usage of 4,771 participants as well as his insights about the variations between girls’ and boys’ TV viewing preferences.

Simultaneous use

The study found that teens -- kids between the ages of 12 and 17 -- use two media types simultaneously in greater numbers than do other age groups. Researchers at BIG Research, the firm commissioned by Media Head to conduct the survey, asked respondents in four different age categories (12-17; 18-24; 25-34; and 35-44) about their habits when doing seven different activities: watching TV, listening to the radio, going online, reading magazines, reading newspapers, reading mail or engaging in other activities.

Consider simultaneous TV watching and Internet usage. More than one third (34 percent) of 1,100 teens queried said they regularly go online when watching TV, and nearly one third (30 percent) said they do so occasionally. For comparison, 28 percent of the 18-24 year olds reported that they regularly go online while watching TV, and 33 percent of the 18-24 year olds regularly watch TV when online. But among those 35-44 years old, only 24 percent regularly go online when watching TV, and 28 percent regularly combine TV watching with being online.

And when teens start out online, nearly half (41 percent) said they then regularly turn on the TV, while 31 percent said they do so occasionally.

Girls vs. boys

Among teens, girls’ use of other media -- including the Web and reading magazines and newspapers -- while watching TV exceeded boys’. In some cases, such as using the Internet while watching TV, the difference was only a few percentage points -- 35 percent for girls versus 32 percent for boys -- but with magazines, the variation was much greater. Twenty-one percent of girls regularly read magazines while watching TV compared to 12 percent of boys.

Girls also tended to use other media while both reading magazines and the newspaper in greater numbers than boys. More girls than boys also listen to radio while online. But both boys and girls reported watching TV, reading magazines and newspapers in similar numbers while online.

Mr. Geoghegan drew on TV viewership studies that show girls’ viewing habits tend to shift as they age from the same fare as boys -- i.e., cartoons -- to more relationship-oriented material. (In contrast, boys, he says, move from cartoons for kids to more sophisticated fare in the same genre, such as “The Simpsons,” then sports, which he calls adult versions of cartoons.) “Girls are more interested in shows that develop relationships between characters,” he says. “They watch shows like ‘Gilmore Girls’ and then ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’” He sees a connection between those viewing habits and girls’ use of technology. Girls use cellphones, instant messaging and video phones more frequently than boys, according to BIG researchers. “Girls use these tools to manage relationships,” he said.

Agencies can take advantage of these findings, he believes. “You need to think beyond targeted print or TV, and think about how these mediums influence each other. For creatives, particularly, there are opportunities to create advertising where these mediums intersect and overlap, and girls are engaged.”

 

Lisa Sanders, AdAge.com. November 29, 2005

Copyright © 2004, Crain Communications Inc.. All rights reserved.