African-American Web Users Growing Faster Than Overall Population

Growth in Web usage by African Americans outpaced the average rate of growth during the past year, which could make the group more attractive to online advertisers, according to new figures from Nielsen//NetRatings.

Based on a recent study by the firm — a joint venture of NetRatings and VNU’s ACNielsen and Nielsen Media Research — the number of U.S.-based black men and women using the Web had grown 19 percent by August 2001, to 8.2 million users. Meanwhile, the overall online population grew just 14 percent.

Growth in the amount of time that African Americans spend online also topped the overall average, increasing 22 percent from last year to nine hours and 41 minutes. By comparison, overall average surfing time only increased 12 percent from last year, to about ten hours and 22 minutes.

At the same time, black surfers also viewed 662 pages on average, during an average total of 16 sessions in the month, up 7 and 14 percent, respectively, since last August. The overall Web population accessed 712 pages, 1 percent less than last year. Overall, Web surfers logged on an average of 20 times per month, an increase of 11 percent year-over-year.

While the growth statistics are likely to encourage advertisers’ efforts to reach African-American consumers online, the demographic could very well see additional growth, experts said.

“African Americans account for more than eight percent of the online population, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the group represents nearly 13 percent of the overall U.S. population,” said NetRatings director and principal analyst T.S. Kelly. “Compared to the number of African Americans reflected in the total U.S. population, representation of the African-American group on the Internet has room for growth.”

The group’s increasing online presence has increased its attractiveness to traditional marketers, several of whom within the past year have launched major efforts to target black audiences on the Web.

In December, Verizon inked a three-year, $3 million sponsorship agreement with BET.com — one of the most highly trafficked sites designed specifically for black Web surfers. And early this year, Community Connect’s BlackPlanet.com signed a deal with AOL Time Warner’s TIME magazine to share content and sell subscriptions.

In addition to continued growth, another development that could help advertisers use the Web in reaching black audiences is the increased visibility that results from that growth. As the African American population increases, the group also becomes easier for marketers to track and target — simplifying Web media planning.

“As the online presence of various ethnic groups continues to grow, marketers and online services will benefit from engaging these constituents,” Kelly said. “By understanding what draws various ethnic groups such as African Americans to the Web, marketers can leverage the growing diversity of people online to extend the reach of their service, product and brand.”

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