Advertising Insights

How Americans consume media on the daily commute

By May 14, 2015 No Comments

We recently discussed some of the ways in which social setting can effect media consumption, in our blog how consumers use Technology while socializing. Today we turn our attention, and analytics tool, TouchPoints, to how Americans consume media on the daily commute.

If you’re one of the majority of employed Americans who battles traffic five days a week, you probably don’t relish your commute. Regardless of the mode of transport you choose to take to work, you’re likely to be waking up and tuning in with the world on your way into the office, and winding down on the way home. These two distinct mindsets are opportune moments for advertisers to reach consumers seeking information and entertainment through the plethora of media platforms we have access to when on the go.

Time and spending power

2013 figures from the Bureau of Fiscal and Budget Studies estimated that New Yorkers spend an average of 6 hours and 18 minutes commuting to their place of work each week, with residents of other large cities spending approximately 4 hours each week on their way to a place of full-time work.

Since commuters enjoy a higher income than consumers at home, commuting offers a prime opportunity to target an audience with high spending power, during a receptive period of the day.

How mode of transportation effects media consumption

The mode of transportation used by consumers will obviously have an effect on the device they use. And in turn, the choice of digital device plays a significant role in the media consumption menu of American commuters.

As the majority of commuters are either driving a car or truck (88.7%), it’s not surprising that radio and other audio are the most popular modes of media consumption when commuting (78%). However, depending on geography, the mode of transport chosen varies significantly, which then has an influence on media consumed. In bigger and busier cities, such as New York, people are most inclined to commute by public transportation, while in smaller cities commuting is mainly done by car.

When people travel at peak rush hours, especially on public transportation, crowding appears to lower receptivity, as well as affecting exposure to forms of media which benefit from freedom of movement, so people are less likely to read a book or use laptops while commuting at peak hours on public transportation.

As the graph below visualizes, almost 50% of people commuting to a place of work or education used a cell phone during their commute. When transportation modes are considered, our data revealed that among public transportation commuters, cell phone usage is understandably higher than among drivers, with 67% of people travelling via bus, subway or train using their mobile devices.

how media is consumed on the daily commute

how media is consumed on the daily commute

Commuters buck the eBook trend

Despite the hike in popularity of eBook readers in the US, penetration remains comparatively low during the daily commute. It appears that the home is still the most popular location for e-book use, despite the convenience and portability of the device. 6% of people use their devices in the home, which is considerably higher than the 1.5% of Americans using an e-book reader during the daily commute. The number of eBook users is actually lower than the proportion of commuters reading print books, news and magazines (6%). Reading eBooks in general is getting really common but almost half of people read them on their PCs. Furthermore, around 20% of those reading eBooks use their smart phones.

How gender effects commuter media consumption

Among commuters using all transportation modes, we saw that females are almost 10 percentage points ahead of males in cell phone usage, with 54% of female commuters using their device. In terms of specific mobile apps used, females are more inclined to seek entertainment via social networking and gaming apps, while males have a higher reach of app use only within the sport, weather, music and audio categories. Both female and male commuters actively consume mapping and navigation apps.

Mobile Apps used by commuters


The importance of Outdoor advertising

While some traditional forms of advertising are decreasing in favor of digital, spending on Outdoor advertising  is growing, and is an effective way of targeting high-quality commuting consumers, especially in large Cities. Since commuters often see advertising as a welcome distraction to their journey, they are in a more receptive mood than at other times in the day.

A recent study conducted by RealityMine for the Outdoor Advertising Association of American (OAAA) found that OOH is the ideal ad medium to reach consumers with a mobile device. The report identifies that consumers took actions including making purchases, searching online or brand-related social media activity, within a half-hour of exposure to OOH advertising, 22 percent of the time.

The report also found consumers feel positive while experiencing OOH advertising – higher than all media other than TV. In 82% of OOH exposures, consumers reported positive emotions and alertness, or considered purchasing within a half-hour.