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YOUTH AND LEISURE IN WESTERN EUROPE
Vanessa Hamilton (BMRB, London)
This paper is about youth leisure trends in Western Europe, specifically about what
leisure activities interest young people aged between 15 and 19 years. The source that
will be used for this analysis is TGI (Target Group Index), a quantitative single source
study that explores consumer behaviour, media exposure, leisure and attitudes. The study
is present in over 55 countries and in this analysis the focus will be France, Germany,
Spain and Great Britain with a total sample size of 55,000 respondents aged 15 years and
Chart A Day in the Life of
What do young people do in their free time and what leisure interests are competing with
reading for their attention? What other activities appeal to this group and how can
interest in these activities be leveraged to make reading more appealing to them? These
are some of the questions that will be explored in this presentation.
Using The TGI Time Diary to look at a Day in the life of European Youth
TGI data allows us to take a snapshot of different leisure activities that young people
engage in throughout the day. In this part of the study, respondents are asked to fill in a
Time Diary and record where they were, with whom, and what they were doing
throughout the day. For the purpose of this analysis, the focus will be on leisure
Chart using Time Diary (all leisure activities incl. TV)
This chart gives us an idea of the different media and other leisure activities that young
people engage in, in the course of an average day. In honour of our hosts, it is the
Spanish youth aged between 15 and 19 years that will be explored; however similar
analyses can be conducted for the other European countries as well. Apart from the
traditional media: watching TV, newspaper and magazine reading, and Radio listening;
other leisure activities like watching videos/DVDs, reading, using the computer,
accessing the Internet, going to the Cinema and listening to music, are also measured.
Not surprisingly, TV viewing is the leisure activity which most teenage Spaniards engage
in, especially during two peak hours of the day: what is known in Spain as the sobre mesa,
which coincides with lunchtime, and prime time, around 10pm when almost 60% of this
group are likely to be watching TV.
Chart using Time Diary (all leisure activities excl. TV and print)
By suppressing TV viewing from this chart, we can take a closer look at other leisure
activities engaged in. Listening to music (CDs, Records, Tapes…) is the second activity
that most Spanish young people engage in, particularly in the afternoon/early evening.
The Radio seems to have quite a constant presence in the lives of teenagers with peaks
around 7 o’clock in the morning (when they wake up), 1pm and 8pm (possibly before
lunch and dinner). Another significant form of entertainment among this target group is
the Internet, which takes precedence (even though in second place following TV), in the
late hours of the day, especially after 9 o’clock in the evening. Using the computer
follows closely, from 3pm onwards, although it is difficult to say whether this usage is
related to academic work or other activities like videogame playing.
Chart on activities on the Internet including both V% and I.
In view of the importance that the Internet has in the lives of youth, by taking a closer
look at this medium one can get a deeper understanding of what young people find
appealing nowadays. It is no surprise that 80% of individuals within this age bracket use
the Internet (compared to 51% of adults in these four countries) and do so quite
intensely1. So what is it that young people are doing on the Internet? Apart from sending
emails, the most frequent activities are: accessing sites on music, accessing bulletin
boards2, using Instant Messenger, sites with Cinema listings, academic research, and sites
on Sports. They also play games on line, download games/screensavers, and make
purchases on the Internet, specifically Music/Videos, Clothing, Tickets for events, and
yes, Books (although when compared to the population they are less likely to do so than
your average Internet user)3.
Other Leisure activities
However there are also other leisure activities competing for the time of our youth: going
out with friends to nightclubs, restaurants, bars; practicing/watching sports; playing
video games, attending musical concerts, going to the cinema, theatre and fun parks, are
only a few of the options open to them.
Chart on Sports
Starting with Sports, 36% of European youth claim to practice some kind of sport or
exercise at least once a week. However, this figure is likely to decrease with age, reaching
a high of 40% at age 15 to a low of 31% at age 19. Football is not only the sport in
which most European youth are interested (62% of them), it is also the sport most
practiced by this target group, in the 4 countries (37% play occasionally or regularly).
There are also some country differences:
In Germany, the sport most practiced is Cycling (49%) followed by Swimming (47%)
with Football a third with 28%. In Spain, Football, Swimming and Basketball are the top
three sports practiced by this group; in France, Football, Badminton and Basketball rank
first and in Great Britain, Football, Swimming and Bowling.
Chart on Cinema
Cinema going is another leisure activity that generates as much interest. 39% go to the
cinema at least once a month (compared to 16% of the population) and the type of
movies they prefer are comedies, followed by action/adventure, horror, thrillers, Science
Fiction and Fantasy. This in itself will also give an indication of the type of books that
are more likely to appeal to European youth.
Chart using Time Diary (print only)
So let’s go back to the Time Diary and take a look at PRINT. A focus on reading habits
of newspapers, magazines and books throughout the day, reveals that while newspaper
reading is likely to be an early morning activity (with a second peak around lunch time),
magazine and book reading tend to be afternoon / early evening activities, with book
1 59% more likely to use every day than the average population
2 Example fora, blogs etc where users can post questions and get replies from other users, about specific
3 Index = 89 (therefore they are 11% less likely than the population to purchase a book on the Internet.
reading peaking between 5 and 8 pm, with a second minor peak around midnight
possibly linked to the habit of reading oneself to sleep.
Chart on types of books
As for the types of books that young people like reading, Fiction is almost invariably the
most popular in all countries, however when compared to the rest of the population,
European youth show interest in books about Science Fiction, IT and Sports more than
the average, and this appears to be consistent across the four countries.
Chart with picture of youth reading books/newspapers/magazines
Books are not the only medium that young people read: they are also interested in
newspapers and magazines. However, while 40% declared reading a book in the last
month, 64% have read at least one newspaper over the last 7 days, and almost 8 in 10
have read at least one magazine in the last month. Young people are less likely to read
newspapers than the average population (Index=81) but are slightly more likely to read
magazines (I=104). A closer look into what topics they like to read about in magazines
continues to reinforce an emerging pattern into what young people are interested in these
days: they are twice more likely than the general population to enjoy reading about Film,
Technology and Astrology. Fashion, Sport, Beauty and yes, Art / Music / Theatre /
Books follow suit.
Chart on Topics of Interest in Magazines
There are also some interesting cross country differences. While French youth rank Film
first, British teenagers opt for Fashion, German youngsters find TV programme details a
very interesting topic, and Spaniards are twice more likely to like reading about
Art/books/music/theatre than your average European youth, with 33% of them saying
that they are very interested in reading about this topic in magazines. This is also
reflected in the titles they are most likely to read: in Spain, Super Pop, a music magazine,
is not only the title with the highest readership level among this target but also the one
with the highest affinity (I=592), followed by Cinemanía and Ragazza. In Germany, TV
Spielfilm, Popcorn, Bravo, Computer Bild and Sport Bild, are amongst the highest
ranking for this target group.
Chart eBooks and Podreading
To conclude, making reading more appealing to young people is not only about content
but also about format and about the medium or material. It goes without saying that
young people would read more if books were about subjects that interested them.
Furthermore, their high interest in magazines also suggests that short, snappy and snazzy
(possibly with lots of colourful pictures and designs) would be more enticing. Finally
their interest in the Internet and in technology in general, is not to be ignored. The
introduction of eBooks (downloadable books and magazines) and podreading
(downloading audio books), where content is created for an audience that can access it
where, when and how they want, is certainly worth exploring.