Reading is often considered to be under siege from other, more passive forms of media consumption—especially among the young, who have a reputation for preferring video games and TV shows. But sometimes the cliché can be a little misleading.
On Recode, Peter Kafka reports on some new figures from Nielsen showing exactly how much TV people watch versus how much other audiovisual media they consume. The interesting thing is that most forms of media are holding fairly steady, but live TV is falling noticeably whereas apps and web content on smartphones and tablets are growing considerably. From 2014 to 2016, live TV is down by 20 minutes while smartphone/tablet content has more than doubled from almost one hour to over two.
Does that smartphone and tablet content include e-books? Probably so. The statistics also track AM/FM radio and game console time, so it’s not as if it’s only about video consumption. E-books are read via apps just like anything else. (Though I notice it doesn’t track time spent in reading paper books.) But more likely, the lion’s share of that mobile device time is still going to Netflix, Hulu, and other mobile video providers.
The figures also show a decline in live-TV-watching among teens and adults aged 12 through 34—the average time they spend on that activity has dropped by 1 to 2 hours per week over the last two years. Of course, they do still watch a lot of it—over 24 and a half hours a week for the 25-34 segment, and not nearly as much as older folks. But nonetheless, it’s declining.
The challenge for book publishers is, as it ever was, to try to draw some of these younger folks’ attention away from moving pictures and toward static words. And make no mistake, it will be a challenge. This is the same demographic that the Codex Group says are the most pronounced about wanting to spend less time on digital devices.
(Which makes it a bit odd that they’re also the ones who seem to be spending more time there in general, according to Nielsen. But perhaps that’s why they want to spend less?)