At the same time Americans are buying ever-bigger TVs, they are turning their attention to smaller screens – those on their PCs. In the 2008 Annual Edition of Technology User Profile, we found that 57% of Home PC Households agree with this statement: “I spend more time using my computer than watching TV.” Only one year ago, this percentage was less than half – 45%. What is the significance of this increasingly defined divide?
The draw to the PC away from TV stems from – where else? – Entertainment. Nearly four times as many PC-focused Americans as TV-focused ones say “I keep finding more ways to use the internet for fun,” with 76% of PCers and 20% of TVers in agreement. Also, 89% of PCers surveyed agree: “The Internet is a big part of my home entertainment,” compared with 36% of TVers.
Also, hands-on interactivity is a major draw, as the PC-focused go beyond simply pushing a few buttons on their remote controls. PC-focused Americans engage in uniquely proactive, leading-edge, and niche activities more often than TV-focused Americans do. Substantially more PCers participate in interactive chatting (47% PCers, 19% TVers), social networking (35% PCers, 12% TVers), and web publishing (15% PCers, 3% TVers) than do their TV-focused counterparts.
Furthermore, PCers use their PCs and the Internet for a wider range of activities, averaging 18 different activities compared with 11 on average among TVers. This reflects a self-reinforcing effect, as people discover more things they can do with their personal computers, the more they weave them into their daily lives, and then they are able to discover yet more activities of interest.
Although there are myths that the web is primarily frequented by young millennials, there are no strong demographic differences between those who identify as PC-focused and those who consider themselves TV-focused. These interactivity-seeking PC users are young and old, male and female, and high-income as well as low-income.
Looking ahead, we don’t agree with straight-lining pundits who forecast mass migration of eyeballs to the ever-tinier screens of mobile phones and PDAs. Instead, as we’ve watched technology adoption these last 2 decades, we stick with a whole-person view. There are brains and fingers attached to those eyeballs.