The number of intensive on-demand media consumers nearly doubled in the last year, from 11 percent to 21 percent of the public, according to a new study from Arbitron Inc. and Edison Media Research.


This study defined such a consumer, called a "heavy on-demand media consumer," as anyone who engages in multiple behaviors such as watching video on demand or listening to online radio, or those who own devices such as an MP3 player (iPod or another brand) or digital video recorder (TiVO).


Among the findings:
-Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) of the U.S. audience prefers to use a machine to control the time of their TV viewing. A year ago, their main motivation was to fit their schedule, but now a plurality (37 percent) say it's to skip the commercials.


-Among the 12-17 age population, ownership of an MP3 player has grown to 42 percent, up from 27 percent just a year ago.


-Favorite non-traditional ways to watch TV are buying or renting a series on DVD (27 percent), video on demand (23 percent), and streamed video on the Internet (10 percent).


-The heavy on-demand media consumer group is 59 percent male and 40 percent affluent, but "this is not solely a young person's phenomenon," in the words of Bill Rose, senior vice president of marketing at Arbitron. More than half (51 percent) of heavy users are in the 25-44 age bracket, while only 27 percent are age 24 or less.


"These findings confirm that on-demand media usage is not a fad or restricted exclusively to a tech-savvy consumer niche," said Rose. "As on-demand media becomes increasingly mainstream, it will complement traditional forms of media distribution and offer new life and extended value for programming."


One question on the survey gave respondents a choice: Eliminate either TV or the Internet from their lives. Five years ago, television survived by a 79 to 26 percent margin. This year, TV still won but by a much smaller gap, 59 to 40 percent.


The study was based on 1,925 telephone interviews. For a free download of the results, visit www.edisonresearch.com.


Newspapers Online
If the Internet has stolen readers from newspapers, at least it's starting to give back a few.


That's the implication of new data released by the Newspaper Association of America. For the first quarter 2006, the NAA reported a circulation decline of 2.5 percent compared to the year before. But at the same time the online audience for newspaper Web sites grew 8 percent.


Newspaper Web sites had 56 million users, or 37 percent of all online users during the quarter. Of the nearly 112 million people who visited news and information sites, more than half (58 percent) used newspaper sites, according to data provided by Nielsen/NetRatings.


The circulation drops come as no surprise; according to a report from Merrill Lynch & Co., total newspaper circulation has been negative since 2002, based on Audit Bureau of Circulation reports. To combat the trend, NAA frames the declines as proof that newspapers are cleaning their subscriber lists, as well as focusing on "total audience" meaning both traditional readers and online users.


But the gains online can't compensate for the loss in hard-copy sales. First, the print numbers are still large and the online numbers small, so percentage changes don't balance. For example, the Los Angeles Times sells about 852,000 papers every day, and it claims to reach 4.6 million adult readers every week, compared to 1.7 million visitors to its site. Second, most newspaper sites are free, so publishers lose the revenues that come from the selling the paper. Finally, the ad revenues from newspaper sites lag far behind the print money stream.


Futurists dream of a day when publishers can serve the informational needs of a local market by posting news online instead of printing it on tons paper pulp which becomes trash in a matter of hours. Given that most newspapers still have pole position in collecting local news, the Internet would seem a more efficient distribution model for a needed product. The new data indicate a willingness by the audience to move online as well, but so far the publishing industry hasn't found a business model for supporting it. Until Internet access becomes universal, and folks will pay money for the local info-site, the market dictates that publishers continue to manufacture old-fashioned newspapers.


Cat TV
Product placement gets kind of hairy in a new reality show from pet-food maker Meow Mix. The production "Meow Mix House" puts 10 cats together in a specially designed residence starting June 13. Thanks to Web cams in every room, cat lovers can go to www.MeowMixHouse.com and spy 24-7 on their favorite feline.


Every day, the Web site will tally responses from these peeping toms and evict the "cat-testant" with the fewest votes. The final cat standing gets a job as "Feline Vice President of Research and Development," responsible for taste-testing new products from Meow Mix.


Naturally the brand will appear consistently in the streaming video. The competitors will eat Meow Mix Indoor Formula dry food and the brand's newest line, Meow Mix Market Select canned food. The losing cats receive a one-year supply of Meow Mix to console them.


Meow Mix, a New Jersey-based company acquired by Del Monte Foods Co. last week for $705 million, will produce the show with help from advertising agency MMB and event promoter Grand Central Marketing.


After the contest ends, the partners plan to edit the footage into TV episodes. Eventually they hope to find a cable-channel home for their kitty. Even if the negotiations go nowhere, however, the show proves the marketing possibilities of narrowcasting to a well-defined audience.


News & Notes
M & C; Saatchi LA has landed the global advertising account for NetworkOmni Multilingual Communications, a translation service in Thousand Oaks. With 2,500 translators, NetworkOmni, is a significant service provider for the financial services, insurance, legal, publishing, health care, technology, hospitality, and government markets. M & C; Saatchi will be responsible for national print campaigns as well as digital, direct marketing and collateral.


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KCET-TV (Channel 28), the Los Angeles PBS affiliate, has hired former CNN executive Sid Bedingfield to develop programming for the network's "public square" service. Job one is to produce a pilot for a nightly one-hour news magazine show called Global Watch. Public Square is a joint venture between KCET and KQED-TV in San Francisco.


Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at jrussell@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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