AOL: Digital Divide Closing for African-Americans

A new study from America Online claims African-Americans spend more time on the Internet than they do with television.

African-Americans spend 4.7 hours online daily versus 4.6 hours with TV, a finding that could alter advertising budgets.

“The message that's going out to advertisers is that if you're not using the Internet to target African-Americans, particularly the college educated, then you're leaving a lot of dollars for the competition to garner,” said Bret Moore, Chicago-based publisher of the AOL Black Voices online service.

The study, conducted for AOL by Images Market Research, found the digital divide closing between African-Americans and the general U.S. population.

For example, almost 80 percent of African-Americans today have Internet access versus 88 percent of the general population. Two-thirds of these households have a high-speed connection compared with 53 percent for the general population. Those currently not online aim to get connected within six to 12 months.

Moore highlighted two points from the study, officially called the 2005 AOL African American Cyberstudy. One was how the Internet's disruptive nature was changing the way African-Americans conduct their lives on a daily basis. The other was their level of engagement.

For instance, African-Americans spend 4.7 hours online daily versus 2.9 hours for the general population. They also go online for more information. Sixty-eight percent of them read the news online versus 56 percent for the general population, and 55 percent access entertainment over the Web versus 26 percent overall.

Also, 72 percent of African-Americans who go online do so for health issues and 60 percent for financial questions or needs versus 53 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for the general population. Thirty-nine percent of African-Americans go online for sports versus 26 percent overall.

In addition, 92 percent use a search engine, 86 percent go online to communicate with family and friends, 85 percent to get driving directions and 62 percent each to open a bank account or bank online as well as listen to music.

The study reported 62 percent of African-Americans think the Internet is helpful with individual career advancement, and 80 percent feel it's an education tool for all ages.

“It shows the Internet's being used as a lifestyle tool [for African-Americans],” Moore said.

The survey involved six focus groups, plus 1,016 African-American Internet users and 550 phone interviews.

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