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Could Longer Commutes to Work be Changing Media Consumption?

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September 24, 2009

Could Longer Commutes to Work be Changing Media Consumption?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

A study by IBM (News - Alert), for example, finds that 21 percent of daily commuters have changed the way they get to work because of the recession. Some 17 percent of drivers in this category say they are car-pooling more frequently.

That would mean more time spent in the car. But about 30 percent say they have increased the number of days they work from home. On the other hand, 26 percent say they are taking public transportation more often.
At the same time, lower gas prices have caused 23 percent of respondents to alter their commuting habits in a different way, with 19 percent of this group carpooling less now, 19 percent taking public transportation less often and 17 percent working less often from home.
A separate study by the United States Census tends to support the argument that more workers are commuting, though. The latest United States Census data finds the percentage of workers who drove alone to work decreased slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 76.1 percent in 2007 to 75.5 percent in 2008.
The percentage of carpoolers also increased from 10.4 percent in 2007 to 10.7 percent in 2008. The percentage of commuters using public transportation increased slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 4.9 percent to 5.0 percent.
If those basic trends intensified because of the recession, people would be spending more time in public areas and in their cars. And since cars are the main venue for radio listening, one might suspect the amount of time spent listening to the radio might increase.
And that is what a new study has found. Americans increasingly are turning to online and radio sources for news and information, while relying less on daily newspapers and television, Opinion Research Corp. said.
Over the last year, daily newspaper usage dropped 4.1 percent and television usage dropped 3.6 percent, while radio usage increased 2.9 percent and online usage increased 1.9 percent.
It is possible there is a difference between consumption of radio news and other content, though. The Pew (News - Alert) Research Center suggests that consumers have been listening to less radio news since 1991.
But a Nielsen study conducted in March and April of 2009 found stable radio listenership, overall, in all age demographics. Nielsen’s study found that 18-34 year olds in 51 markets listen to the radio 21.5 hours each week, in line with all people age 12 and older.
One cannot predict what will happen once the recession is over. Certainly some people will revert to older behavior patterns, but a significant number might keep new behaviors that also have the effect of boosting radio listening.
The same sort of logic suggests use of MP-3 players and mobiles for in-transit entertainment also has gotten a boost from longer commute times.

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire

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