The U.S. Census Bureau just published a pretty scary figure. According to its wide-ranging Statistical Abstract of the United States:2007, “adults and teens will spend nearly five months (3,518 hours) in 2007 watching television, surfing the Internet, reading daily newspapers and listening to personal music devices.” This comes out to a staggering daily schedule: more than 4 hours watching TV, nearly 3 hours listening to the radio and about a half hour each surfing the Internet, reading a newspaper and listening to music. Besides wondering when that “average American” finds time to eat, sleep, work, and socialize, I was curious to know if people around me could possibly fit that predicted pattern.

I am thankful to my father-in-law, my sister-in-law and my son for accepting to keep a media diary for three days (two during the week and one on the week-end). In the way of quick introductions, Ed is a 60-something researcher, Morgan a 30-something physical therapist and Emmanuel an 8-year old second-grader. All three live in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to newspapers, TV, radio and Internet, I asked them to report any movie watching and book reading.

While this personal study is in no way scientific, it provides some insight into the habits of three individuals spanning three generations. Not surprisingly, the grandfather reads the newspaper while the grandson plays video games. All three of them are Internet users and TV viewers, but none of them spend anywhere near the amount of time predicted by the U.S Census Bureau on any media. That was a relief!

Here is what they reported.


Day 1 (week day)
8:00 to 8:30 a.m. Read The San Francisco Chronicle
8:30 to 9:00 a.m. Email and news on the Internet
9:00 to 10:00 a.m. AM news radio
Noon to 1 p.m. Email and several sites (travel, news)
2:00 to 2:30 p.m. Internet
9:00 to 10:30 p.m. Read biography of Alexander Hamilton

Day 2 (week day)

8:15 to 9:30 a.m. Email and Internet
1:00 to 1:30 p.m. Email
7:00 to 7:30 p.m. The San Francisco Chronicle
8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Internet
9:30 to 10:15 p.m. Read Hamilton’s biography

Day 3 (week-end)

8:00 to 9:00 a.m. The San Francisco Chronicle
5:00 to 6 p.m. Network TV news
8:30 to 10:00 p.m. Read Hamilton’s biography

On a daily basis, Ed spent 40 minutes reading the paper, 20 minutes watching TV, 20 minutes listening to radio, 1 hour and 25 minutes on the Internet as well as 1 hour and 15 minutes reading a book.


Day 1 (week day)
10 minutes Today Show (NBC)
1 hour Sex and the City episode (on special goggles while sitting in the dentist’s chair!)
1 hour Network TV news (NBC)
20 minutes Email and Internet (banking, bills)
2 hours Watched a movie (Miami Vice)
10 minutes Read a trade journal

Day 2 (week day)
20 minutes Today Show (NBC)
20 minutes Read a children’s book

Day 3 (week-end)
30 minutes Watched PBS special
90 minutes Watched a movie (Eloise)

Daily, Morgan spent on average 1 hour watching TV, over 1 hour watching a movie, about 5 minutes online, 5 minutes reading a book and a few minutes reading a trade journal. She did not report listening to the radio or reading a newspaper.


Day 1 (week day)
6:30 to 7:00 a.m. TV (Cartoon Network)
7:30 to 7:45 a.m. Email
8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Read a book (The Old Country)

Day 2 (week day)

6:15 to 6:30 a.m. Played Nintendo DS (Mario Cart)
1:00 to 1:15 p.m. Listened to National Public Radio (Fresh Air)
2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Played Nintendo DS (Nintendogs)
5:30 to 6:00 p.m. Listened to National Public Radio (All Things Considered)
7:30 to 8:00 p.m. Read books (Pigeon series by Mo Willems)

Day 3 (week-end)
8:00 to 8:30 a.m. Internet (Club Penguin gaming site)
9:00 to 9:30 a.m. Internet (Club Penguin gaming site)
5:30 to 6 p.m. Read book (Ralph Mouse by Beverly Cleary)
6:15 to 6:45 p.m. Watched movie (Cars on DVD)
6:45 to 7:15 p.m Watched TV (football)
8:00 to 9:00 p.m. Watched movie (Cars on DVD)

Daily, Emmanuel spent 20 minutes watching TV, 15 minutes listening to radio, 25 minutes on the Internet as well as 30 minutes reading a book and 30 minutes watching a movie. He also spent 25 minutes playing video games.