NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers this year will spend more of their day surfing the Internet than reading newspapers or going to the movies or listening to recorded music, according a study released on Tuesday.
The findings are part of a new report from private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson that shows advertisers are paying close attention to the shift in consumer behavior and putting more money into areas like digital marketing.
Last year, the top two advertising mediums were newspapers, at $55.7 billion, and broadcast television, at $48.7 billion, according to VSS.
But it estimates that by 2011, overall Internet advertising will become the largest advertising medium, at nearly $63 billion, describing the shift as "a watershed moment" in the media business.
"We consider this one of the major findings," James Rutherfurd, managing director at VSS, said in an interview. VSS conducted the study in cooperation with consultancy PQ Media.
Rutherfurd also pointed to a potentially worrisome development for the media industry -- the overall time spent with media declined slightly last year, a spillover effect of the consumer shift away from newspapers and other traditional sources of news and entertainment.
For the first time in a decade, the study found, consumers spent less time with media in 2006 than they did in the previous year. Usage per person dropped 0.5 percent to 3,530 hours annually, according to the study, which said digital media typically requires less time than traditional media.
For instance, consumers usually watch broadcast or cable TV for at least 30 minutes per session, but spend as little as five to seven minutes watching consumer-generated video clips online, it said.
That might counter predictions by some media experts that Internet usage will add to the sum total of consumer media time. But VSS expected the trend to correct itself in 2007 with an overall increase of 0.1 percent and in 2008 at 0.8 percent, roughly line with increases in 2004 and 2005.
In 2006 consumers spent the most time with TV, followed by radio, which together combined for nearly 70 percent of the time spent with media. That was followed by recorded music at 5.3 percent, newspapers at 5 percent, and the Internet at 5 percent.
But this year the study forecasts the Internet will take up a bigger chunk of time spent with media than either newspapers or recorded music. Internet will move up to 5.1 percent, while newspapers and recorded music each move down to 4.9 percent.
At the same time, more time is being spent with media at the workplace thanks to the Internet, the study showed. It said media usage by "institutional end-users" grew 3.2 percent to 260 hours per worker in 2006. It predicted that institutional media usage would continue to grow from 2007 to 2011.
"More and more companies need up-to-the-second information," Rutherfurd said. "Most people in their jobs have access to computers on their desk -- companies need the information and are willing to pay for it."