College Students Spend 12 Hours/Day with Media, Gadgets

College Students Spend 12 Hours/Day with Media, Gadgets

College students in America are expected to lay out an all-time high $6.5 billion this year on technology items and spend an average of 12 hours each day engaged with some type of media, according to (pdf) findings released today from Alloy Media + Marketing‘s 9th annual College Explorer survey, conducted by Harris Interactive.

The survey found that the largest class in history, comprising 13.8 million college students (ages 18-30) on campus this year, is responsible for a record $250 billion in projected spending power – up nearly 6% over 2008 figures, Alloy said. Projected discretionary spending shows a comparable gain, with college students reporting approximately $56 billion. These numbers have risen 37% in the past four years.

Take Stock in Tech

Of this total spending,  $6.5 billion is expected to be on technology-related items, including computers, mobile devices, MP3 players, and gaming consoles and devices. This figure represents a slight increase over 2008 figures and falls just below the top two discretionary spending categories: food and automotive.

Whither the Desktop Computer?

Students’ increasing mobility and need for 24-7 connection is confirmed by rapid year-over-year increases in ownership of both laptops and MP3 players, the research found.  For the first time since the survey’s inception, desktop ownership has dipped to less than half (46%) of the 18-30 year old college-student population (46%), while laptops are now the preferred model on campus, with three-quarters (75%) of students reporting ownership.
In four years, the MP3 player has more than doubled to a total of 74% ownership, while digital camera ownership also has jumped to almost three-quarters (74%),  a 28% increase since 2006.

More Computers than TV

In an analysis of the extent to which multi-tasking students are engaging with their preferred media on a daily basis, the survey found that – when all platforms are totaled – students are spending an average of 12 hours daily engaged with some type of media. The majority of that time – 9.5 hours – is spent with their “tech” gadgets, including computers, mobile devices, MP3 players, and gaming devices.

Notably, students are now spending twice as much time on their computer than they are watching TV. Students report watching 2.5 hours of TV daily, nearly equal to time spent on their cell phones or PDAs. In contrast, one-fifth of their day is spent on the computer, the survey found.

This year’s study also demonstrated students’ increasing viewing of online video, which has increased year-over-year for TV shows, user generated videos and webisodic programming:

  • Among 18-24 year old students, one-third (33%) say  they have increased their consumption of webisodes or user-generated videos over the past year. College males are watching more webisodes than they did last year, as compared with  their female counterparts.
  • Nearly one-third (30%) of 18-30 year-olds report they frequently watch videos when visiting social networking sites.
  • Watching movies on computers appears to be nearing parity with television viewing. 61% of students who watch full movies do so on their computers, while 76% watch them on their TV.
  • 40% of students are self-described “media distributors,” because they share video or blog content with their friends.
  • For those students who report using technology devices to shoot, send or receive video content, nearly 60% of college students report doing so on their computers, with 45% conducting this activity on their cell phone, smartphone, or PDA.

Advertising Preferences

As online habits continue to shift and video content becomes more prevalent, there appears to be considerable acceptance of advertising among college students across the web, so long as such advertising is done on their terms, the study revealed.

For example, while pop-up ads or banners are not widely accepted by this group, more than half of college students (53%) say they do not avoid webisodes or pre-roll ads while online, and 68% say they don’t avoid online promotions. Rather, one in five students say that advertisements in the form of online promotions are most useful to them, according to Alloy.

Additional survey findings:

  • 70% of college students say they are the key decision makers when purchasing their cell phone, while 63% make the ultimate choice for their digital camera and 60% do so when deciding on a computer.
  • Input from friends and family continues to be a strong influence on students’ decision-making with respect to brands, products and services, with 62% of students placing particular importance on word of mouth from friends. Nearly half (44%) trust the advice of family and 40% are influenced by seeing others using products.
  • 60% of college campuses offer blanket wireless coverage, up from just less than one-third two years ago.
  • One-fourth of today’s college students are using their cell phone or PDA to play MP3s or games, with 20% using these devices to access the internet for a variety of activities.

“Mobility and media convergence appears to be the required curriculum on the quad,” stated Andy Sawyer, SVP, Media Services for Alloy Media + Marketing. “Perpetual advancements in technology have clearly given students increasing control and the ease with which to socialize, communicate and be entertained on demand.”

About the survey: The 2009 Alloy College Explorer study was conducted online within the US by Harris Interactive on behalf of Alloy Media + Marketing from April 1-27, 2009 among 1,521 US 18-34 year old college students (2-year, 4-year and graduate students, including 1,433 18-30 year old college students) who agreed to participate in online surveys. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, region and school status (full-time, part-time, 4-yr., 2-yr.). Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.