Friday, December 17, 2010

Internet Viewership Catches Up to TV

Income still a factor in digital divide. Twitter use overstated?

While many have predicted that the Internet would inevitably become the most-watched communications medium some day, a new Forrester Research study confirms that day may be already here. The average U.S. household watches 13 hours weekly of traditional broadcast TV, equaling the same amount of hours spent online, according to Forrester. The report, released Monday, bases the findings on Forrester's survey of more than 30,000 consumers.

As you might expect, Gen Yers, ages 18 to 30, spent equal or more time with the Internet, and for the first time, Gen Xers ages 31 to 44 followed suit. Younger Boomers, ages 45 to 54, also now spend an equal amount of time with both media. Researchers said the amount of time spent watching TV has remained constant in the past five years, but Internet use has risen 121 percent since 2005.

Our take? It’s not so much the device, it’s the convenience factor of the web and the feeling of control. Consumers (and business decision makers) aren’t going to be told what to watch and when. They’ll consume it on their own terms--if you're relevant.

Look at mobile for instance. The percentage of mobile users who report texting on a monthly basis jumped from 61 percent from 54 percent, with an increasing amount of older users communicating beyond phone calls. In fact, one in four online mobile owners now log on to the mobile Internet. More than one-third of Gen Yers online mobile consumers connect at least monthly. About 200 million consumers now access their Facebook pages through a mobile device globally, according to Forrester.

The Forrester study found nearly one-quarter of U.S. interactive marketers plan to pilot mobile search programs in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, as Online Media Daily reported yesterday, the convenience of “search anywhere, anytime” has become a major attraction for mobile users. About 16 percent of online mobile users now use their mobile phone to check news, sports, or weather, and 13 percent look up directions or maps. When Forrester analyzed individuals who access the mobile Internet at least weekly, the numbers skyrocketed to 60 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Researchers indicate news, stocks and sports scores are what they’re seeking most although we suggest they’re not looking at music, event tickets and adult entertainment. Most telling for us is that the heaviest mobile users are most likely male and college-educated, and their average household income is more than $92,000.

So the web, for all its open access, democratization of the world’s information remains tilted toward the more affluent and better educated members of the populace. Internet usage still tilts toward the affluent and the well-educated.

Household income remains the greatest predictor of Internet use for Americans, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. In both their access to and use of the Internet and a suite of other technological devices and applications, households earning more than $75,000 a year significantly outpace lower-earning households, particularly those making less than $30,000 a year.

While 95 percent of high-income households use the Internet at home in some fashion, just 57 percent of the poorest do. The well-off are also more likely to own cellphones, computers, e-readers and other entertainment devices.

Unsurprisingly, the wealthy engage in online commerce and search for health information more often. However, while there is relatively little disparity across income brackets for consumption of television and print news sources, the richest households are more than twice as likely as the poorest to read online news.

“The correlation between income and participation in many Internet activities might be expected,” said Jim Jansen, a senior fellow at Pew. “What is surprising is the scale. It really shows the impact that income has on leveraging the advantages of the Internet.”

OMG! Who uses twitter?

A new study released this week by the Pew Research Center found that only 8 percent of Americans who were active on the Internet are enthusiastic users of twitter and only about 2 percent were extremely active/daily users. This compares to 74 percent of adult Americans who actively use the Internet. Among the highly active, they check in several times a day to see primarily what new content has been posted. As expected, the heaviest users were techies, marketers and young urbanites, but surprisingly, Latinos and African Americans were twice as likely as whites to use it – Pew did not have an explanation for that and that would sure balance the research pointing to the affluent hogging their share of the world’s bandwidth.

So, what’s all this mean for B2B marketers? It means your customers (and their bosses) need a compelling story about what makes your product/service so great. You need a story that works as well in words and pictures as it does in video form and on a mobile device. You need a story that’s stays fresh and relevant, but at the same time, can be told as well next Thursday or three weeks from today as it can right now.

Next time we’ll talk about thought leadership content that’s dynamic and real-time yet has sustainable shelf life. It ain’t easy, but what really is these days?


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