It’s an article of modern-day faith that digital technology is driving globalization while eroding national differences in daily life. But even so, our estimates for time spent with media in nine countries make it clear that the amount of digital usage is itself a continuing point of difference.
For that matter, there are disparities in the degree to which an older medium like TV is a presence in people’s lives. Drawing on our new reports on the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, China, Japan, South Korea and India, we provide a glimpse here at some key differences among countries in consumers’ time spent with media.
Most immediately obvious in our estimates are large disparities in total average time spent. The US is on the high end, with total time spent with media by adults (18+) averaging 12 hours, 9 minutes per day. (For simplicity, our style for expressing such a number in the text that follows will be 12:09.) That’s more than double the figure for India, whose total is the lowest among the nine countries we cover, at 4:59.
Given the way smartphones enable multitasking and push up time spent with media, are differences in the totals largely a matter of countries’ varying levels of smartphone penetration? It’s a reasonable guess, but one that turns out to be incorrect. For instance, we estimate that smartphone penetration among adults in Canada is slightly higher than in the US (81.6% vs. 80.5%). But we also estimate that total time spent with media in Canada is more than 2 hours lower than in the US (9:50 vs. 12:09).
An important note on how we account for multitasking in our estimates of time spent with media: If someone spends an hour watching TV (for example) and uses a smartphone to surf the web during the same hour, we count this as an hour of usage for each medium, and hence as 2 hours of total media time.
Smartphone penetration among adults in South Korea is exceptionally high (at 89.0%), and yet its total time spent figure is in the middle of the pack (7:36). Then again, India’s far-below-average total for time spent (4:59) is in sync with an exceptionally low level of smartphone penetration, at just 29.6%.
Our methodology for our time spent with media forecasts is based on an analysis of 8,754 metrics from 340 sources. This analysis involves the collection of third-party data—primarily survey data—from adult respondents, asking them about their media use habits. Data is also sourced from online and mobile activity tracking services, government data and interviews with industry experts. Using a bottom-up analysis, we assess and analyze reported time spent with each device and media activity across various sources. And where definitions differ, the data is normalized and interpreted in terms of our definition (i.e., global populations ages 18 and older). The data is then aggregated with the time contributions from each device and media type to arrive at an estimate for average time spent with media per day. In order to arrive at forecasts for growth rates by media and by device, this analysis is followed by extensive assessments of historical and expected future growth patterns with regard to device adoption, multiple and overlapping device usage, population and demographic factors, and competitors to existing devices and activities.
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