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Ten years on, IPA TouchPoints reveals how we became superhuman media absorbers in 2016

Forget 'smombies' and 'generation text', in 2016 we became so efficient at consuming media and online information that we’ve truly become superhuman information absorbers.


IPA TouchPoints 2016, the latest wave of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s (IPA) decade-long study of consumer behaviour and media consumption, reveals the startling amount of information and entertainment British consumers are now capable of absorbing and their almost machine-like media abilities.

The study reveals that, in 2016, approaching half our waking hours¹ are now spent consuming media or online information. We are now spending 7.37 hours a day consuming media or online information – up 2% on 2015 and 9% on 2005.

Our appetite for online content of all kinds increased by 7% over the last twelve months. We are now spending 4 hours and 16 minutes per day sucking up digital content whether for work, browsing, shopping, banking or emailing – more than double the time we spent in 2005 (2 hours).

In a typical day we will spend nearly two hours media multi-tasking (using two media at the same time) and more than 20% of us are using three media together at the same time for at least 44 minutes a day. For millennials, the number rises to 26% of people juggling three or more media for 47 minutes every day.

IPA TouchPoints 2016 suggests 2016 has seen a tipping point, with a profound shift to online media consumption lead by the millennial² age group.

Lynne Robinson, Research Director, IPA, says:

“TouchPoints 2016 reveals a clear break with the past, with millennials defining new patterns of media consumption that will shape the media, marketing and technology industries in the decades to come.

“While the consumption of live media through off-line channels remains consistently strong across all adults including millennials, it is clear we have reached a tipping point in that online media consumption is fast becoming dominant.

“This year’s study also creates a strong impression of our increasing desire and ability to control and mix our consumption of media types simultaneously, reflecting our desire for fluid and instant media gratification, such as via smartphones.”

Across all the major media categories the data points to a growing margin of difference between millennials’ preference for online media consumption and that of the broader adult population:

 Video (including live TV)

  • Overall 99% of British adults watch 31 hours and 23 minutes of some form of video in a typical week – almost equivalent to a full-time job.
  • All adults spend 70% of their video consumption time watching live TV, compared to 50% of Millennials spending just 50% of their video time on live TV.
  • All adults spend 14% of their time watching TV via a PVR with just 6% watching streamed or catch up TV. There were minimal shares on all other forms of viewing including long and short form video.
  • Millennial viewing is more fragmented with 50% of their viewing to Live TV on a TV set, 13% viewing via a PVR, 14% streaming /catch up TV, 5% on TV and films via DVD, Blue Ray etc. 8% on long form video, 5% on downloaded programmes and video and 4% on short online video clips.
  • 54% of all adults watch catch-up/on-demand television services and/or video clips each week: 21% watch BBC iPlayer and 16% watch Netflix
  • Almost 80% of millennials (76%) watch catch-up/on-demand television per week: 26% watch iPlayer and 33% watch Netflix – twice as many as all adults.

The story continues with audio media:

  • Millennials are heavier users of all online audio services which take a 33% share of their overall audio time, compared to only a 15% share for all adults.
  • 91% of all adults are listening to a form of audio in a typical week – 82% of all adults listen to live radio compared to 70% of millennials.

Universally connected and social:

  • In 2016, 93% of us use the internet regularly compared to 56% in 2005. Consuming media online alone has increased by 7% (2 hours 56 mins per day to 3 hours 8 minutes per day).
  • A big part of this increase is due to online consumption of TV, up from 38% to 57% year-on- year. More people are listening to audio online, up from 26% last year to 31%.
  • 93% of millennials now use social media/messaging each week compared to 71% of all adults.
  • Facebook continues to dominate this sector reaching 82% of millennials and 59% of adults each week, however, growth now appears to be slowing with only a 1 percentage point year on year increase in reach.
  • Meanwhile the fast growth sites for all adults were Whatsapp +22%, Snapchat +16% and Instagram +31% respectively.

The future of news is now:

  • While adults overall still consume 54% of their news time via a printed newspaper with a further 16% via newsbrands’ digital platforms and a further 16% via BBC digital news with only minimal shares for other sources, millennials only spend 17% of their news time with printed newspapers.
  • Millennials absorb 30% of their news from BBC online news and 25% via digital newsbrand platforms, with a further 4% on Sky News and 4% on Buzzfeed respectively.

 Millennials digital detox in the cinema

  • The big screen may not yet be connected but 50% of millennials go to the cinema at least four times a year compared to 35% of all adults. Part of the enduring attraction seems to be a chance for a digital detox; 50% of adults and 59% of millennials agree they like going to the cinema because it means they can watch a film with no distractions.


  1. Based on a 16 hour waking day and 8 hours sleep.
  2. Millennials are classified as (15-34 year olds)

About TouchPoints

IPA TouchPoints is a unique, consumer-centric, cross-media dataset produced by the IPA in direct response to the needs of the communications industry. TouchPoints provides context and perspective into how people conduct their daily lives and insights into their media usage.

TouchPoints was first launched in 2006 and September 15th sees the launch of the seventh iteration of the survey.  The survey has been copied by many countries around the world, including USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and more.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos Connect, questioned 5,100 adults aged 15+ through a substantial self-completion questionnaire and a diary via smartphone, which collected data every half hour for a week. These questionnaires are designed to tell us how they were spending their time, their opinions, and the role of media in their lives. 

Last updated 15/09/2016

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