You could've seen this coming from a gazillion miles away: people watch TV and use the Internet at the same time. Duh!
What does Nielsen make of this? Not much, yet:
"With our Convergence Panel we can now, for the first time, observe what could only be guessed at before - how television viewing and Internet usage interact and affect each other," said Howard Shimmel, Senior Vice President Client Insights, The Nielsen Company. "It is too early to draw any firm conclusions about behavior but the early trends seem to indicate that online usage is complementing, not substituting for, traditional television viewing. We will be watching this trend carefully to see how television viewing drives Internet usage and visa versa." (here's the full press release).
Nielsen is very good at sales, and so the message they are trying to spin is this: all that time people are spending on the Internet is not coming at the expense of television viewing!
That much I believe both from my personal habits to the observation of others. But that's the good news. The bad news is this: almost anything complimentary to television is bad for the advertiser!
But that has always been the case.
Nielsen's research shows that about 30% of in-home Internet usage occurs while "watching TV".
But what percentage of eating, talking on the phone or even reading a book occur while watching TV? It's higher than you think! If you have two televisions in the same room or a hand held gaming device, you can play video games and watch TV. So many things can converge with television, and I'll admit that since Nielsen has an Internet measurement business, it's easier to measure convergence with the Internet than convergence with eating a sandwich.
None of those things necessarily take away from the television being on, and they are indeed complementary, however, all of those things take focus away from commercial advertisements, be they 30 second ad spots or product placement baked into the shows themselves. If you are surfing the web, or sending an e-mail, or doing anything else while watching television, you are not as focused on the television as you would be if you weren't doing anything but watching the television.
But I don't think it matters. Certainly not for the big advertisers, and certainly not among heavy users of the Internet and TV. Advertisers will get their message out because they can, and absolutely do make it up in volume. I watch almost no commercials for scripted programming. But almost no commercials is not exactly no commercials, and between that and live sports, I've seen Brooke Shields' Volkswagen ads what seems like 400,000 times in the last month.
And I used the Internet a lot that month.