No Time For News

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Get in, get informed and get out.

That seems to be the way we're dealing with our media outlets in the 21st century, at least according to a study that came out this week. In an MediaNewsDaily article ominously entitled "Time Spent With Media Falters, Digital Spawns Shorter Attention Spans," it was written that:

The average American consumer spent 3,530 hours with media in 2006--down 0.5% from 2005, according to the just-released estimates from the 21st edition of Veronis Suhler Stevenson's Communications Industry Forecast. That drop follows a period of decelerating growth that the VSS report attributes to the increased efficiency of utilizing digital media--especially online and mobile technologies--which tend to be less time-consuming than traditional media counterparts…

"We all knew that there was only 24 hours in the day, and even with multitasking there would be a point where people maxed out," says James Rutherfurd, executive vice president and managing director at VSS, who oversees the report in conjunction with consultants PQ Media. "It has just come a little faster than we thought because of the efficiency of digital media."

It's all beginning to come together. This study comes a month after a Pew report showing that public awareness hasn't improved over the past 20 years, despite the influx of myriad media options:
More than a decade after the Internet went mainstream, the world's richest information source hasn't necessarily made its users any more informed. A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that Americans, on average, are less able to correctly answer questions about current events than they were in 1989.
All this data leads to the conclusion that we are getting extremely targeted in how we consume media. We get precisely the information we want with the spin/presentation we want and move on. It's not the "digital divide." It's not necessarily the "cares" versus the "care nots," as I observed last month. It's just an issue of personal efficiency and our rapid-fire culture.

We don't want to read longer articles if we can get a brief synopsis. Sound-bites on the news are shorter. Even the New York Times has decided to get smaller. I know I'm sounding like the world's oldest, Grandpa Simpson-iest 30-something, but wasn't all this information supposed to improve things?

It turns out that Bruce Springsteen was wrong. It's not just "57Channels and Nothing On." It's hundreds of outlets, but nobody's watching.