Multi-tasking up as 'half our time spent using technology'

Consumers are spending almost half their waking hours multi-tasking with technology by watching TV and using mobiles and other gadgets, a study said today.

The research by regulator Ofcom – the first to track exactly how long consumers spend using various media – found the average person spends 45 per cent of their time while awake absorbing media or communicating via gadgets.

They are sending four times as many mobile phone text messages a day than in 2004 and spending almost a quarter of their time on the internet on social networking sites.

People are also using several types of media at the same time, with the average person cramming eight hours and 48 minutes of media into just over seven hours during the average day.

Younger people are even more adept at multi-tasking, cramming nearly five hours of media usage into just under two hours a day.

The dominance of television on the lives of people in the UK was emphasised by half of all respondents claming they would miss TV the most if a form of media was taken from them. Just four per cent of adults said they would miss reading newspapers and magazines.

Reading newspapers, magazines or books was considered less important overall than communicating via email, text and video message, making or receiving phone calls, use of the internet or watching linear TV programmes.

The three TV channels with the highest percentage of live viewers, as opposed to those watching pre-recorded TV, were all news channels: Sky News, Sky Sports News and the BBC News Channel.

The annual Communications Market Report into the UK’s TV, radio, telecoms and internet industries found traditional TV and radio is holding its own, with the average person watching TV for three hours and 45 minutes a day and evening programmes in particular retaining their popularity.

The popularity of TV has been boosted by the strong growth of digital video recorders – 37 per cent of households now own one – and the introduction of high definition (HD).

Nearly a quarter of respondents (22 per cent) said they had bought a HD-ready TV set in the last few years, despite the economic downturn, to watch digital channels.

Out of revenue of £3.8bn generated by multichannel broadcasters £132m came through news programming in 2009. Sport remained the genre that generated the most revenue, £1.5bn.

The divide between younger and older people’s use of technology is narrowing, helped by half of over-55s now having broadband at home – the fastest growing rate of all the age groups.

The smartphone and the changing way consumers use mobiles is increasing the overall use of communications, often simultaneously, the study found.

The number of people who surf the internet on their mobile is up by half in the past year, from 9 million to 13.5 million.

And the number of smartphone users has more than doubled in the last two years, from 5.5 million to 12.8 million.

Social networking site Facebook is by far the most popular site with mobile internet users, accounting for 45 per cent of all website use and leaving nearest rival Google at just 8 per cent.

But while people are using communications services far more, they are paying 9.4 per cent less than in 2004 by taking advantage of discounted bundles.

Peter Phillips, Ofcom partner in strategy and market developments, said: “For the first time we can see just how central media and communications are to our lives. On average we use them for nearly half our waking hours.

“Increasingly, mobile devices, especially smartphones, are used for multi-media, but live evening TV still remains the main entertainment event of the day.

“Younger people have shown the biggest changes in how we use media, particularly using different media at the same time.

‘But the divide between younger and older people’s use of technology is starting to narrow as more older people are getting online and finding that things like email are very important to them.”

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