April 9, 2012 at 5:19 PM ET
While naysayers fear technology is destroying the attention spans of our nation's youth, it may be far more detrimental to the future of advertising, a recent study reveals.
"Digital natives" – those who've never lived in a world without 24/7 cable TV, Internet access and cellphones – switch media venues 27 times per nonworking hour, according a small-but-telling study commissioned by Time Inc. and conducted by Innerscope Research. And, as Advertising Age notes, if the kids keep switching between cellphones, TVs, magazines (young people still read magazines, right?), there may not be nearly enough time for advertisers to sell them stuff!
The olds are way easier to sell stuff too, the study implies. That's because "digital immigrants" – people who to learn to use new technology – change media only 17 times per hour.
Despite the small sampling of subjects –15 digital natives, 15 digital immigrants – the study was super science-y. "During 300 hours of monitoring," Innerscope Research reports, all 30 participants "wore biometric belts, which measured their emotional engagement throughout their normal day, and glasses with embedded cameras that monitored which medium or platform they were using and when they altered their visual attention."
Here's what Innerscope Research found:
- Digital natives switch their attention to, from or between media platforms (i.e. TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms) 27 times per hour, about every other minute.
- Because digital natives spend more time using multiple media platforms simultaneously, their emotional engagement with content is more emotionally constrained. They experience fewer highs and lows of emotional response and as a result, digital natives more frequently use media to regulate their mood – as soon as they grow tired or bored, they turn their attention to something new.
- At home, digital natives take their devices from room to room with them (65 percent vs. 41 percent for digital immigrants) – rarely more than an arm’s length away from their smartphones – making switching platforms even easier.
- More than half (54 percent) of digital natives say “I prefer texting people rather than talking to them” compared with 28 percent of digital immigrants – a significant indicator of how marketers and content creators need to communicate with them.
All of this supports stuff brain scientists were talking about in 2008, when Scientific American reported this:
The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate but also is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains. Daily exposure to high technology -- computers, smart phones, video games, search engines such as Google and Yahoo -- stimulates brain cell alteration and neurotransmitter release, gradually strengthening new neural pathways in our brains while weakening old ones. Because of the current technological revolution, our brains are evolving right now -- at a speed like never before.
Now advertisers have to find a way to do the same.