Time Spent With Digital Media Shot Up In 2020

Suspicions that the pandemic has left us more “online” than ever have panned out. Digital research firm eMarketer reports that amid the pandemic in 2020, U.S. adults spent one hour more per day on digital activities, across all devices, than they did in 2019. Total digital time is now on track to surpass eight hours per day by the end of 2022.

In 2020, U.S. adults spent seven hours, 50 minutes per day consuming digital media—this is regardless of multi-tasking, so one hour spent on a laptop while watching TV counts as one hour for laptops and one hour for TV—up 15 percent from six hours and 49 minutes in 2019, the biggest increase since 2012. This is also considerably higher than eMarketer’s first quarter 2020 projection of seven hours and 31 minutes.

“Time spent with almost all digital devices experienced an uptick in 2020,” says Zach Goldner, eMarketer forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Connected TVs and video game consoles are the main beneficiaries of the cord-cutting trend due to increases in the number of subscription OTT and ad-free video-on-demand users and content offerings.”

Digital time accounted for 57.5 percent of adults’ daily media time in 2020, and that figure will reach 60.2 percent by 2022. Breaking down their digital time by major media types in 2020, social networks accounted for one hour and five minutes, up from 56 minutes in 2019; digital video accounted for two hours and 13 minutes, up from one hour and 46 minutes in 2019; and digital audio accounted for one hour and 29 minutes, up from one hour and 22 minutes in 2019.

“As normalcy returns in 2021, overall digital consumption will hold all of last year’s gains,” adds Goldner. “Desktop/laptop time will return to negative growth this year, but smartphone time will more than make up the difference.”

Smartphones are driving a significant portion of adults’ total digital time. In fact, smartphone time surpassed three hours for the first time in 2020 (three hours and 13 minutes), up from two hours and 45 minutes in 2019.

Looking ahead, eMarketer says that growth in digital time will continue, albeit at much smaller rates. U.S. adults’ daily digital time will gain another seven minutes in 2021 to seven hours and 57 minutes. It will then surpass 8 hours (eight hours and two minutes) in 2022 for the first time.

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