Time is probably not speeding up. But the rate at which consumers are shifting their attention across media channels seems to be increasing. And, this behavior poses a big problem for marketers.

Much has been written about the fragmented and limited attention span of younger consumers. Now, another research shop has rolled out evidence that Millennials, also called Gen Y or Gen C, tend to speed through media as they look for interesting content. Innerscope Research, based in Boston, recently tracked the media behavior of 30 consumers. The study’s subjects included consumers who had grown up with digital media and those who have adopted digital media but grew up reading newspapers, watching TV and listening to the radio.

The results indicate that ‘digital natives’, the ones known to be ‘3-screening’ on a regular basis, change their media source 27 times an hour. (Note the study did not track behavior during working hours.) Analysts point out that this type of jumping around means during a typical 30-minute TV sitcom, a digital native would be shifting to another format at least 13 times.

Advertisers seeking to reach these consumers face a huge challenge. In response to the study results, major advertisers and agencies concede that things have to change. Innerscope Research CEO Carl Marci says, “the study’s findings mean “the [creative] bar is set higher” for advertisers.”  Some analysts say that ad messaging must be shorter. Others believe that marketers will need to simultaneously release their message across multiple platforms.

Media professionals are also looking behind the behavior to discover what drives media-hopping. Some believe the constant shifting allows consumers ‘to regulate moods.’ Others say it’s all about the search for engaging content. Whatever the reason, if this behavior becomes long-term and mainstream, marketers will be drastically changing their approaches to creating ads and buying media space.

[Source: Steinberg, Brian. Young Consumers Switch Media. Adage.com. 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2012]