OPA Study: Internet Dominates Media Use

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NEW YORK -- New research from the Online Publishers Association shows that the Internet ranks in the top two for most-used mediums both at home and at work, suggesting that advertisers should shift more of their budgets online.

The Internet ranks as the most-used channel at work and second after television at home, according to OPA's "A Day in the Life: An Ethnographic Study of Media Consumption." The study recorded real-time media use of 350 people, tracking at-work, at-home and in-transit activities every 15 seconds during 80 percent of their waking hours.

"What has a significant commanding presence both at home and at work?" said Jim Spaeth, founding partner of New York consulting firm Sequent Partners and researcher on the project. "The answer is the Internet. The Web reaches people across all ages for the same amount of time. That defines the nature of mass medium: It reaches out to everyone in about the same way. It's a homogenous mass medium."

The study rated the Internet as having a daily reach of more than 60 percent with an average of nearly two hours per user. This ranks it third behind TV and radio in overall reach across major media outlets.

OPA's findings are part of the Middletown Media Studies series at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. The $40 million study tracked people's use of 15 media, including five ad-supported media: Internet, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines.

"When you see the power of this media, you see that [consumer use of the Internet is] really not the exception, it's the norm," said Dan Goodman, a partner at Ogilvy Interactive who spoke June 7 at the New York event as part of a response panel.

The panel also included Mr. Spaeth; Mike Daecher, senior vice president at About.com; and Jack Haber, vice president of e-business for Colgate-Palmolive. OPA president Pam Horan moderated.

The study tracked concurrent media use or consumer multitasking in addition to measuring use of a channel. The research indicated that adding Web technology increases the reach of magazine, TV, radio and newspaper ads. Web components increased TV's reach by 51 percent in the morning, 39 percent in midday and 42 percent in the afternoon. The Web more than doubled the reach of magazines.

Web-dominant households have more buying power and outspend TV-dominated households, the study found. Neighborhood census data for participants identified as heavy Web or TV users showed the Web group having consistently higher buying power. Web user spending was above the population median in all market areas, whereas TV-heavy users were consistently below median spending.

Internet advertising still offers untapped potential. While Internet use claims 20 percent to 25 percent of consumers' media time, only 8 percent of ad budgets is spent online, the OPA said.

"We have to get more and more comfortable with campaigns that address people not just by their demographics but by how they access information and what is their intent," Mr. Goodman said. "The Internet allows us to be increasingly more personable and more addressable."

As Internet use rises across demographics, marketers should consider how consumers interact with the medium when designing online components.

"I think that using the Internet the same way you use television is wrong," Mr. Haber said. "I think there aren't enough people who know how to use the Internet. Putting TV commercials on the Web would be like putting print ads on TV."

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