A new study from Arbitron and Edison Research (which was reported in ADWEEK) brings into focus a fascinating phenomenon: Although people report they are overloaded with information, they are also spending more and more time consuming media.
Before I get to the stats, I’ll cut to the chase about what it means: People don’t want information that is uninteresting or irrelevant (or in a format that’s not compelling or convenient). Instead, they want what they want when and how they want it.
And that’s a problem for those of us in internal communication. If we cast a critical eye on much of the content we produce, we have to admit that it’s lacking. It’s not new (because it’s already been released). Not original (a regurgitation of other content). Not personal or relevant (because it’s “corporate” and impersonal). Not useful (nothing of service that will help employees solve a problem or do something better). And not interesting (because it’s flat, boring, lifeless).
Am I being harsh? Actually, no. I see a lot of employee communication content and often I’m at a loss for words about how to provide constructive criticism. I’m well aware that good communicators spent a lot of time creating this stuff, and I don’t want to discount the effort. But I often think, “Who would really be interested in this web article about the new quality initiative (except, of course, the quality team and their mothers)? What value does this bring to employees? Why would they choose to spend their time with this?”
Sigh. But back to the study, which helps demonstrate my point: When people do want content, they’ll invest more and more time in it.
As the ADWEEK article reports, Americans are spending close to 20 percent more time consuming both the Internet—as well as broadcast media like radio and TV—than they were 10 years ago. In fact, Americans are spending an hour and 21 minutes more time per day with media than in 2001.
Obviously the rise of the Internet and the fact that 51 percent of households now have two computers (versus just 24 percent in 2002) has a lot to do with that increase. But another factor is the growth of smart phones, which are “expanding the average person’s engaged-with-some-sort-of-screen time, as every moment spent waiting in line, riding on a plane, or taking the train to work can be better endured nowadays with media,” reports Adweek.
In fact, 31 percent of Americans claim to own a smartphone, according to Arbitron/Edison’s report, up from just 14 percent a year ago.
I think you get the picture: People are spending a lot more time with media/information. And we have an opportunity to create content that our employees want to engage with. But the same old stuff is not going to cut the mustard. It’s time to re-think what (and how) we communicate.