Do you suffer from PBS?

10 December 2011 | Blog

As marketing, media or advertising professionals, we all suffer from PBS. I’m not referring to the ongoing debate on funding of the Public Broadcast Service.  Rather, the affliction that needs your attention is your own Personal Bias Syndrome (PBS). This condition can be attributed to the way, in the course of hectic day-to-day professional and personal lives, we all tend to assume that the way we enjoy media and embrace new technologies is pretty much the same way everyone else is doing it too. Let me share a few prevalent examples that illustrate how our PBS is out of sync with what is actually happening. You might personally recognize some of these symptoms…

DVR Rules!  – Because we tend to think of ourselves as heavy users of DVRs and watch plenty of time-shifted content, we assume that this is quickly becoming the norm. As incredible as it may seem to us, less than half of TV households have a DVR. Consequently total time-shifted viewing across all TV households remains less than 7% of all time spent watching TV. Beyond that, it is important to note that the rise in watching time-shifted TV content is being driven by greater penetration of DVRs and not by the average amount of time individuals watch time-shifted content. According to Nielsen research, among households that have had DVRs for at least one year, the time individuals devoted to watching time-shifted content has held steady around 26 hours per month which amounts to less than 20% of their total TV consumption.

Internet Rules!  – There is a persistent banter in the business and trade press that focuses on the rise in online video options that are available to us. As an avid fan of Netflix and TED, I realize that there is a growing amount of online video content that is attracting greater attention.  But just how much time is broader America spending with these online video alternatives? Not much is the answer when compared to traditional TV consumption. Online video viewing amounts to less than 2% of the total time watching traditional TV. Sure it is growing, and rapidly because this growth is coming on top of a very small base. And to further emphasize this point, according to Nielsen’s latest “Three Screen Report”, in terms of total minutes of year over year growth, traditional TV viewing actually grew more than online video viewing.

Youth Rules!  – As a whole, the marketing, media and advertising industry tends to skew relatively young, and as such, we tend to empathize and even worship youth culture. So it is no surprise that we often hear that the differences between traditional TV and online or mobile video consumption are generational. However, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average 8-18 year old spends nearly 3.5 hours a day watching TV versus 1.5 hours on the Internet, and while the time they spent on the Internet grew, the growth in amount of time spent watching TV was even greater. Recent ComScore research revealed that the average 18-24 year old spent 32 hours per month on the Internet on 2010, but as it turns out 32 hours was also the average across all age groups. It is noteworthy that the research found that the heaviest users of the Internet are persons ages 45-54 with an average of 39 hours online each month.

It turns out that when we look outside of our own Personal Bias Syndrome, and actually examine research data that provides us with a broader perspective, we realize that our own media consumption and technology adoption behaviors do not reflect what is happening in broader America—not even among young Americans. Sure there are emerging behaviors that are important to keep an eye out for as these may be leading indicators. However, we must also keep in mind that the actions of early adopters rarely reflect the future behaviors of the majority of the population, both in terms of degree of adoption or magnitude of usage. Why is this important? Well, as marketing, media or advertising professionals we are supposed to be in tune with our target consumers. So, we must work at keeping our PBS in check.