Friday, April 24, 2009

Best things in life aren't free

Passing through the airport en route home, I saw a brief report on CNN about the latest Pew Research Center survey on how Americans are re-evaluating what material things are luxuries and what are necessities.

Falling dramatically are a microwave (a necessity to 47% today vs 68% in 2006), clothes dryer (down 17%), A/C (down 16%), dishwasher (down 14%), TV (down 12%), cable or satellite (down 10%). For the first time, they asked about a “landline phone,” a necessity to only 68%. The study continues a baseline study begun by Roper in 1973.

The CNN staff flashed graphics for the microwave and dishwasher, but not for TV or cable — although they nervously joked about it. I couldn’t hear if they mentioned that only 38% of Americans age 18-29 see a TV as a necessity. If young people are future growth, the politics of the young favor CNN over Fox but their Internet habits hurt both.

The only things that are flat or up are

  • cellphone: 49% (unchanged)
  • high-speed Internet; 31% (+2%)
  • flat-screen TV: 8% (+3%)
  • iPod: 4% (+1%)
Home computer is down 1%, but at 50% is still narrowly ahead of PC. Do the math and 62% of those who find a PC essential find broadband essential.

USA Today
reported that in response to the recession, respondents did more discount shopping (57%), cut/reduced their cable/DBS subscriptions (24%), cut/reduced their cellphone plan (22).

What was a little surreal was the chitchat between the CNN correspondent at the NYSE and anchor Kyra Phillips. (I didn’t know she was the anchor, but Google cleverly knew when I asked “CNN anchor” between 1-3pm EDT that I want the CNN anchor who is on duty from 1-3pm). The two women were trying to show empathy for the common man and woman, but their clothing and hairdos (particularly for Phillips) implied a six figure salary that the common person will never see. I’m no fan of class warfare, but have little sympathy for phony class sympathy (by journalists, politicians, demagogues or anyone else).

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