Saturday, January 9, 2010

Are you overwhelmed yet?

I just read "How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers" from Roger E. Bohn and James E. Short of UC San Diego. It tells us how many hours we're spending with media and how many words and bytes it relates to. Ultimately, it gives evidence to what we're all feeling, overwhelmed!

The report says, "In 2008 Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. Interestingly, information consumption in bytes increased at only 5.4 percent per year, as TV and radio still dominate consumption with 60 percent, although a third of the words and half of the bytes are received interactively.

Are you spending 41 percent of your time watching TV? Americans are, according to the report. The authors tell us that we work for three hours a day (on average) and sleep for seven, and that "three-quarters of our waking time in the home is receiving information." Only 24 percent of our time is spent on a computer, receiving information.

So, what are we receiving? Words and bytes. In 1980 4,500 trillion words were consumed. That has grown to 10,845 trillion in 2008 or 100,000 words per American per day. TV gives us over 45 percent of those words. But, we live in a digital age, so the authors tell us about bytes, too.

When we are measuring bytes, moving pictures dominate all other types of information, that means television, computer games and movies in theaters. The authors estimate that the average American consumed about 34 gigabytes per day in 2008, information that would fit on 7 DVD discs, those represented a 350 percent increase.

I've just scratched the surface of the report, but it supports everyone's feelings of being overwhelmed with information from every corner, from blogs to books and TV and text messages. It serves to remind us that our audiences are being showered with 100,500 words each day and 34 gigabytes. To share a message with your audience in the midst of that clutter, you need to begin with the audience. Live in the Land of the Audience!

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