Research looks at media mul­ti­tasking behavior of young consumers

Today’s teenagers are known to have mul­tiple types of media going at the same time, including Instant Mes­senger, MP3, email, social net­working sites, online shop­ping, mobile phones, iPods, and TV. Com­pa­nies trying to reach this market are eager to find out what media these mul­ti­tasking teens pay the most atten­tion to and how they process the infor­ma­tion that is coming to them through var­ious media. North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor Fareena Sultan and her co-​​authors (Pro­fes­sors Andrew Rohm and Fleura Bardhi, also of North­eastern) have been studying the media mul­ti­tasking behavior of teens on a global level.

The researchers’ recent study, titled “Tuning In and Tuning Out: and Exploratory Study on Media Mul­ti­tasking Using Young Con­sumers,” has recently been com­pleted in the U.S. and results will be com­pared to data they plan to col­lect in Europe and Asia where they will repeat the study.

We know that the youth market is very sim­ilar across dif­ferent con­ti­nents in terms of how these young con­sumers process infor­ma­tion coming to them via dif­ferent chan­nels. How­ever, there may be dif­fer­ences due to the con­sump­tion con­text” said Sultan, Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Mar­keting and Mor­rison Fellow at Northeastern’s Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion. “The pur­pose of com­paring the U.S. to Europe and Asia as part of this research study is to be able to iden­tify the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ence in youth con­sumers’ media behavior across global markets.”

As a first step of the study, Sultan and her co-​​authors deter­mined that while young people use mul­tiple types of media at the same time, the one device they cannot be without is the cell phone. There­fore, as part of sur­veying the behavior of this age group in the U.S., Sultan and co-​​authors sent the vol­un­teering respon­dents of their mar­keting classes at North­eastern the same short survey in the form of text mes­sages every four hours for a week. The short ques­tions of the survey aimed to find out what respon­dents were doing at the time, including how many and what types of media they had on and which ones they were paying the most atten­tion to.

The survey phase of the study was car­ried out in one week with the help of Enpocket, a Boston-​​based mobile adver­tising ser­vice, recently acquired by Nokia. The com­pany will work with the North­eastern researchers to repli­cate the study abroad, starting with a sim­ilar survey in Europe.

Sultan’s research aims to uncover pat­terns of behavior of young media mul­ti­taskers, including how media mul­ti­tasking varies by con­text, time of day, expe­ri­ence and demo­graphics. The results will have impli­ca­tions for industry to pro­pose solu­tions to effec­tively reach this market. Among the poten­tial mar­keting impli­ca­tions a better under­standing of: how these young con­sumers mul­ti­task and which media do they tune in to and tune out; how key con­structs such as engage­ment and atten­tion vary in mul­ti­tasking sit­u­a­tions and how to reach young con­sumers who are doing so many things simultaneously.

For more infor­ma­tion on Pro­fessor Fareena Sultan’s research, please con­tact Renata Nyul at 617–373-7424 or at r.​nyul@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.