business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times this morning reports on a new study from the Nielsen Company saying that 96.7 percent of American households own television sets. Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that this is down from 98.7 percent just a couple of years ago.

Two reasons are cited in the report.

• The recession. Some low-income households have not been able to buy the new television sets that are a requirement since the nation switched from analog broadcasting the digital in 2009; the study says that the households without televisions generally have income of less than $20,000 a year. There is some historical precedent for this; there apparently was a similar drop in television ownership during the tough economic times of 1992.

• Technology. The Times writes that “young people who have grown up with laptops in their hands instead of remote controls are opting not to buy TV sets when they graduate from college or enter the work force, at least not at first. Instead, they are subsisting on a diet of television shows and movies from the Internet.”

This shift in consumer behavior isn’t just an issue for the companies that sell television sets.

The story notes that this creates a problem for Nielsen, which measures the audience levels of the shows watched on traditional televisions ... which is hard to do if fewer people are watching traditional televisions. At the same time, it affects all the marketers that traditionally have used traditional television to reach consumers, and have done so based on measurements of who is watching what and when.

And, people who view television programming on their computers generally are not watching commercials ... which creates another layer of issues.

Marketers of all stripes and in all venues need to pay attention. There are fundamental changes taking place in how consumers consume, and that means that marketers have to change the way they market. One has to be willing to cast a skeptical eye on almost facet of a business operation, to look at both the obvious and subtle ways in which cultural shifts affect the delivery and consumption of products and services. The definitions of “need” and “want” are also changing, and traditionalist approaches to business are more likely to be outmoded with every passing day.

It’s an Eye-Opener.
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