New Pew Research Shows Dropping Perceptions for Landline Phones and TV’s…And Shortcomings of Research Headlines

Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends released a study that found only 42% of Americans consider television sets a necessity: a figure down 10% from last year.  In a post regarding this research, great hay was made over a similar 6% drop in the perception that a telephone landline was a ‘necessity’ of modern life.

This is positioned as very scary for the luddite ‘traditionalists’ who cling to the notion of the all important television…

Or is it?

If you read past the headline, the landline phone dropped as the cell phone grew, which essentially demonstrates that the platform is insignificant compared to the behavioral need.  There are now more cell phones in the US than landline phones; we like to talk (And if you like to talk a lot, perhaps you should look into the unbeaten value of a Cricket cell phone*).

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79Similarly, spinmeisters conveniently overlook that in addition to “TV Sets”, the study included a category called “Flat Screen TV’s” which was up 2%, proving nothing so much as researchers split hairs far more than consumers.

Earlier this year, Nielsen released their “Three Screen Report” which features some truly amazing, myth-busting realities of the state of modern media.  Among other remarkable findings, their data showed TV viewing time in U.S. homes increasing, growing 1.3%.

That might not sound like much, but given TV’s huge base, that equals an incremental two hours per month year over year.  At the same time, Internet video viewing grew 5.9% which is real growth but comparatively, it only equals an incremental eleven minutes year over year.  So as explosive–and meaningful–as web video growth is, it still equals less than 2% of total American video viewing time.

If you are one of those new media acolytes who thinks it’s fashionable to bash TV, re-read that last sentence.

In fairness, if you do read the entire report, the good people at Pew Research cover most of these rather critical details, discussing how the growth of technology and marketplace realities impact their findings.  And personally, I believe research respondents always exaggerate activity that reflects positively on themselves–“Me?  Oh I rarely watch TV.  And I exercise religiously.  And floss.”

Still, there’s that attention-grabbing headline, and in our Immedia oriented culture, we rarely take the time to dig deeper.  We read one line from or see a Tweet from a pundit and simply stop there.

It may build brands and serve agendas and elect presidents, but it’s not making us truly more informed.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


* — Shameless Client Plug.


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