Local TV news viewership continues to decline … even as stations ramp up their news coverage.

How’s this for an ironic twist: The Pew Research Center is reporting that the local TV newscasts if ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates across the United States are continuing to show viewership declines, even as stations are increasing the amount of the local news content they broadcast.

According to Pew, which analyzed Nielsen results for its report, “late” news (10 or 11 pm) suffered an 11% decline to 20.3 million viewers across the United States during 2016.

Early evening news (5 or 6 pm time slots) lost ~9% in viewership, dropping to 22.8 million viewers.

Morning news? It didn’t fare any better, falling a similar ~9% to just 10.8 million viewers.

But despite these continuing declines, there’s scant evidence that local station executives see local news as a losing proposition.

Instead, they appear to be doubling down on it, figuring that local news is one of the few remaining points of differentiation against online news sites that usually don’t provide very much in the way of in-depth local coverage.

Underscoring this, according to a survey conducted by the Radio-Television-Digital News Association and Hofstra University, local TV stations averaged 5.7 hours of news programming per weekday during 2016, which is up slightly from 5.5 hours in 2015.

Stats aside, one has to wonder how much longer local news can continue to be a differentiating factor for local TV stations? Those very same stations are creating their own competition by operating robust websites of their own.  And of course, many people have become quite adept at punching their own zip codes into weather apps to obtain “micro-local” weather information.

Sports? There are thousands of websites and apps available that provide fingertip results and stats down to the most minute level of detail.

Furthermore, as the older population “ages out,” the notion of sitting down at a prescribed hour every day to watch the news on television is likely to go the way of newspapers.  Which is to say, an inexorable slide into irrelevance.

It just isn’t how the world operates any longer … even if one is 60 or 70 years old.

More statistics from the Pew Research Center report can be accessed here.

TV viewing: More choices than ever … but for viewers it’s a big “so what.”

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In theory, people love to have choices. But in practice, does having many choices always matter?

In the world of TV viewing, the answer seems to be … not so much.

New findings from Nielsen’s Total Audience Report finds that the average number of channels received by American viewers of TV is just over 200. But on average, people view fewer than 20 different TV channels during the course of a month.

That means that people are typically  watching just 10% of the channels available to them.

[For purposes of the Nielsen report, “TV viewing” is defined as watching TV live or via DVR/time-shifted viewing.]

Trends shifting over time.

In a related report published by Marketing Charts, traditional TV viewing has declined in nearly every age group over the past five years.

Here’s how those stats break down:

  • Ages 12-17: Weekly TV viewing is down ~36% over the past five years
  • Ages 18-24: Down ~38%
  • Ages 25-34: Down ~26%
  • Ages 35-49: Down ~12%
  • Ages 50-64: Down ~2%
  • Ages 65+: Up ~5%

Clearly, younger generations are finding outlets for their leisure time other than traditional TV viewing. What’s more, time-shifted viewing remains only a small fraction of all TV viewing — no better than 90/10 split in favor of live TV in any of the six age categories tested.

So we have a combination of tradition asserting itself – people continuing to watch relatively few TV channels – along with some changing behaviors that promise to continue to upend the traditional TV industry.

More findings from the new Nielsen and Marketing Charts reports can be accessed here and here.

Consumer banking changes … but there’s a lot that stays the same, too.

cbThere’s no doubt that electronic banking is a win-win for both bank customers and banks themselves. Not only has convenience been improved exponentially, but electronic banking has helped financial institutions expand the scope of their services without incurring as much of the cost associated with bricks-and-mortar branch banking expansion.

And yet … with nearly a half-century of electronic banking behind us, consumer attitudes about personalized banking services persist.

We’re reminded of this in Nielsen’s latest survey of American consumers, conducted this summer. The study shows that while apps, online banking services, and the granddaddy of them all — ATMs — have made banking easier than ever before, there’s still a fundamental desire for physical branches.

The reason? The “customer experience” plays a major role in financial services, and for many consumers, that experience plays out in the trust that comes with personal interaction.

Nielsen’s June 2016 research shows that consumers prefer using a physical bank branch for a variety of reasons — paramount among them being the personal interaction with bank employees.  Here’s how this and the other reasons stack up:

  • Personal service and interaction with bank associates: ~31% cited as a reason for preferring visiting a physical banking facility
  • Convenience: ~24%
  • Ease of use: ~14%
  • Concern about the security of a transaction: ~14%
  • The dollar amount of the transaction: ~5%
  • Prefer not to use a computer or mobile device to interact with the bank: ~4%

Note that an aversion to using computers or mobile devices is hardly a factor in consumers’ preferences to dealing with a physical banking location. It might have been at one time, but that factor is rapidly disappearing as a reason.

cnWhich activities are best “aligned” with the personal experience many consumers expect to receive? Nielsen found that these are the most important ones to accommodate: 

  • Opening checking or time savings accounts
  • Cashing and depositing checks
  • Seeking financial advice
  • Taking out a loan

The Nielsen study provides clues for financial institutions as to how they can align their products and services at each physical location — which might not be the same at each branch, based on the “dynamics” of the customer base being served.

More information about the Nielsen study can be viewed here.

How about you? How often do you take trips to the bank versus handling everything online?  Would you miss having your branch easily accessible if suddenly it was located more than 10 miles away from you?  Please share your perspectives with other readers.

Facebook reigns supreme among smartphone apps — at least in the United States.

faWhich was the most popular smartphone app in the United States during 2015? If you guessed Facebook, you’d be correct.

According to Nielsen estimates, the Facebook app notched more than 125 million average unique users per month during 2015. It was an ~8% increase in the app’s user volume over the previous year.

The second most popular smartphone app was YouTube, but at fewer than 100 million, its average unique user volume was substantially lower than Facebook’s.

The Nielsen estimates are calculated based on a monthly survey of 30,000+ mobile subscribers age 13 and older in the United States, as well as a panel of ~9,000 English-speaking adults (age 18+).

Here is Nielsen’s “Top Ten” chart for the most popular smartphone apps in 2015:

  • Facebook app: ~127 million average unique monthly users
  • YouTube: ~98 million
  • Facebook Messenger: ~96 million
  • Google Search: ~95 million
  • Google Play: ~90 million
  • Google Maps: ~88 million
  • Gmail: ~75 million
  • Instagram: ~56 million
  • Apple Music: ~55 million
  • Apple Maps: ~47 million

Within the top ten list, the two apps with the highest user growth in 2015 were Facebook Messenger, which charted an increase in average monthly users of ~31%, and Apple Music, with ~26% growth.

Also noted by Nielsen, the level of smartphone penetration ticked up yet again in 2015, so that today four out of five mobile subscribers are using a smartphone rather than a feature phone.

fa anAs for the ongoing competition between Apple and Android for smartphone hegemony, it remains a real donnybrook but with Android ahead.

As of Q3 2015, Android devices represented ~52.5% of the subscriber base whereas ~42.5% of Americans used Apple iOS devices to access their apps.  (The remainder is made up of Blackberry users and phones operating on Windows.)

Additional information about the Nielsen evaluation and analysis can be viewed here.  It will be interesting to see how these trends might change in 2016.  Would anyone care to make any predictions?

TV’s Disappearing Act

Television viewing among 18- to 24-year-olds reaches its lowest level yet. 

TV watchingThe latest figures from Nielsen are quite telling:  The decline in TV watching by younger viewers is continuing – and it’s doing so at an accelerating pace.

Looking at year-over-year numbers and taking an average of the four quarters in each year since 2011, we see that the average number of hours younger viewers (age 18-24) spend watching television has been slipping quite dramatically:

  • 2011: ~24.8 hours spent watching TV weekly
  • 2012: ~22.9 hours
  • 2013: ~22.0 hours
  • 2014: ~19.0 hours

It’s nearly a 25% decline over just four years.  More significantly, the most recent yearly decline has been at a much faster clip than Nielsen has recorded before:

  • 2011-12 change: -7.7%
  • 2012-13 change: -3.9%
  • 2013-14 change: -13.6% 

So far this year, the trend doesn’t appear to be changing.  1st quarter figures from Nielsen peg weekly TV viewing by younger viewers at approximately 18 hours.  If this level of decline continues for the balance of the year, watching TV among younger viewers will be off by an even bigger margin than last year.

There’s no question that the “great disappearing television audience” is due mainly because of the younger generation of viewers.  By contrast, people over the age of 50 surveyed by Nielsen watch an average of 47.2 hours of television per week — nearly three times higher.

picLest you think that the time saved by younger viewers is going into outdoor activities or other recreational pursuits and interests, that’s certainly not the case.  They’re spending as much time using digital devices (smartphones, tablets and/or PCs) as they are watching TV.

So, it’s a classic case of shifting within the category (media consumption), rather than moving out of it.

I don’t think very many people are surprised.

Boomers and Millennials: Destined always to be different … or on the same trajectory?

NeuroWhen it comes to advertising, it turns out that the Baby Boomer generation sees things quite a bit differently than the Millennial generation.

In fact, based on neuromarketing research conducted last year by Nielsen NeuroFocus, generational differences account for some interesting neurological contrasts between Boomer and Millennial brains.

The research results also point to how companies might find it wise to tweak the design and presentation of their advertising based on the age levels of their audiences.

Consider these distinct differences found by Nielsen NeuroFocus in its research:

Brain Function: The Boomer Brain likes repetition. Boomers also tend to believe that information that is “familiar” is true. On the other hand, the Millennial brain is more stimulated by dynamic elements such as rich media, animation, and lighting that cuts through their “perception threshold.”

Distractions: Boomer brains are more easily distracted, whereas Millennials are adept at dealing with “bleeding-over” communications such as those found in dynamic banner ads and in contemporary magazine layouts.

Attention Spans: Boomers have a broader attention span and are open to processing more information, whereas Millennials prefer at-the-ready, multi-sensory communications. (And “impatience” is their middle name.)

Colors: In advertising, contrasts gain the attention of Boomers in advertising. With Millennials, it’s more the intensity of the color palette overall rather than contrasts within it that does the trick.

Humor: The Boomer generation prefers lighthearted, clever humor in advertising messages – positive and not mean-spirited. Boomers also like relatable characters that aren’t much younger than themselves. Millennials tend to prefer offbeat, sarcastic or slapstick humor – basically, the kind of humor that many Boomers find offputting or even offensive. Making special effects and other visual hi-jinks part of the shtick attracts the attention and interest of Millennials, too.

It turns out, there’s some real science behind these findings, too. Nielsen NeuroFocus reports that when people are in their mid-50s, distraction suppression mechanisms tend to weaken. Even as early as the mid-40s there are dramatic declines in neurotransmitter levels – particularly serotonin and dopamine.

How does that manifest itself in situations where we see “Boomers behaving badly?” Dopamine declines can lead to thrill-seeking behaviors to compensate. And a drop in serotonin levels can lead to the feeling that “something is missing” – thereby leading to classic midlife crisis behaviors affecting a person’s professional life and personal relationships.

… And as we know, that often doesn’t end up particularly well.

But here’s the more central takeaway from the research: Boomer-Millennial differences don’t turn out to be so much a function of differing world views; it’s more a function of the aging process itself.

So look for the Millennials to begin responding more like Boomers in the coming years.

Will there be holiday cheer in retail sales this season?

Holiday Shopping ForecastHere’s a statistic that surprises no one, probably:  As of November 1st, more than one in five U.S. consumers had already begun their holiday season shopping.

Considering that many merchants begin pushing online and in-store holiday sales in October, it’s hardly any wonder.

In fact, marketing firm IgnitionOne is predicting that American consumers will spend 11% more during Thanksgiving weekend than they did last year.

Some of the increase is undoubtedly due to the calendar; Thanksgiving weekend is nearly a full week later than it was in 2012.

And other forecasting data don’t presage a big jump in holiday sales this year.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales are expected to be “not too hot … not too cold” – up a tad from 2012 but not at the growth level witnessed in 2010 and 2011:

  • 2009:  0.5% sales increase over previous year
  • 2010:  5.3% increase
  • 2011:  5.1% increase
  • 2012:  3.5% increase
  • 2013 (forecast):  3.9% increase to $602 billion

Clues to the reasons behind the middling sales growth forecast can be found in Nielsen’s Holiday Spending Forecast report, in which American consumers describe their financial circumstances in these terms:

  • Two-thirds still feel like they’re in a recession.
  • Half are limited to spending funds on only the basics.
  • One in five has no spare cash at all.

How this translates to the amount of dollars consumers expect to spend on their holiday shopping breaks down as follows:

  • ~44% will spend less than $250 this season
  • ~30% will spend between $250 and $500
  • ~20% will spend between $500 and $1,000
  • ~6% will spend more than $1,000

As in years past, the most popular gift item promises to be … gift cards.  Technology products, toys, food and apparel round out the “top five” holiday gifts.  This is little changed from last year.

And here’s one other stat that retail establishments must be looking at:  Mobile commerce sales grew by ~16% during the holiday season between 2011 and 2012, and ~18% of shoppers checked out deals on their mobile devices.

Those percentages are bound to increase this year.

More findings from Nielsen’s 2013 Holiday Spending Forecast study can be found here.