Biometrics used to measure media consumption habits

July 10, 2012 - 

Time, Inc. recently conducted a media consumption study that utilized biometrics to measure consumer engagement.

“As a multiplatform media company, we are constantly looking at how technology affects the way our audiences consume media,” stated Betsy Frank, chief research officer at Time. “Using biometrics, we were able to drill down even deeper to the emotional experience and subconscious behavior of these audiences.”

The study observed responses of two groups: ‘digital natives’ or those who grew up with mobile technology as part of their everyday lives; and ‘digital immigrants’ or those who learned how to use mobile technology in their adult lives.

The subjects were monitored in their own homes using biometric monitoring systems from Innerscope Research.  The subjects wore biometric belts to monitor emotional responses and eye tracking glasses to determine which form of media they were using and when their visual attention was altered.

The study found that ‘digital natives’ have short attention span as they switched from one platform to another about 27 times, or every other minute.  They could not finish a story, and they typically watched fragmented bits of television shows.  They tend to keep their mobile devices with them at all times, or just within reach.  Because of short attention span, the digital natives experience weaker emotional responses to media.  As soon as they get bored, they turn their attention to something new.

‘Digital immigrants’, on the other hand, consumed media linearly, meaning they do not switch as much because they prefer to see a beginning, middle and an end rather than fragmented bits.

“This study strongly suggests a transformation in the time spent, patterns of visual attention and emotional consequences of modern media consumption that is rewiring the brains of a generation of Americans like never before,” said Dr. Carl Marci, CEO and Chief Scientist, Innerscope Research.

The research demonstrates that marketers and advertisers need to rise to the challenge of gaining the attention of the younger generation in those brief fragments of time.

As Frank said: “In order to keep ‘digital natives’ engaged, content creators and marketers will need to think differently. Grabbing them from the beginning is essential, as is content they can snack on and offering multiple access points to every story.”

Do you consider yourself a digital native or a digital immigrant? 

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.