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'Multiplexing' Defines New Media Habits

'Multiplexing' Defines New Media Habits

You probably do it every day, but you may not know what it's called. We're talking about "multiplexing," and, no, it's not going to the movies. Multiplexing is the term for using more than one device at a time to consume media.

From smartphones to laptops to televisions, folks nowadays have a lot of options for getting their media fixes. And while this range of choices might make life easier for consumers, it makes advertisers' lives more difficult, a new study suggests.

A recent study of media-use habits in the United States found that the average person spends about 35 percent of his or her time consuming media, with television remaining the most popular outlet, followed by computers. 

Researchers at Michigan State University also found that more and more people spend their days multiplexing. Research suggests that Americans spend about 1.5 hours every day engaged in multiplexing, especially in the hours before and after work.

For businesses trying to find the best times and places to run their ads, such simultaneous media use makes it difficult to predict where customers will be looking at any given time, said Chen Lin, who led the study.

When trying to improve their targeting, businesses should not overlook print media, Lin said. The study found newspaper and other printed publications to be very popular on the weekends, in the mornings and when paired with other media outlets.

"The old thinking is that print is endangered," Lin said, "but we found that it doesn't need to be eliminated. Print can have a second life it's its cleverly paired with new media, such as personal computers and smartphones."

Lin recommends that ad buyers stop considering the different media forms as competitors and instead view them as complimentary. Print ads, researchers said, might run together with radio and Internet ads during the key time slots when consumers are likely to be using all three forms.

"Our findings underscore the need to move away from a competitive mindset, to a coordinated viewpoint, as consumers increasingly use combinations of media forms," said Lin.

Elizabeth Palermo
Elizabeth Palermo

Elizabeth writes about innovative technologies and business trends. She has traveled throughout the Americas in her roles as student, English teacher, Spanish language interpreter and freelance writer. She graduated with a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. You can follow her on Twitter @techEpalermo or .