At-Work Surfers Catch Advertisers’ Eyes

For obvious reasons, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) wants advertisers to know that the most wanted consumers are surfing the Internet at work, and not watching television. Hardly a shock, but the research still offers seldom seen stats about Internet usage on the job.

The OPA’s media consumption study, undertaken with Millward Brown IntelliQuest in November 2001, profiles consumers who had accessed the Internet from work in the past 30 days (aptly called “at-work users”), and contrasts them with Internet users who hadn’t accessed the Internet at work (the “non-work users”).

The 1,000-person survey found that the Internet ranked first in media consumption during the 9-to-5 workday. Given the ease with which most workers can get online at work as compared to in front of a television, this is far from a surprise. And even the study admits that after work, U.S. workers still like to plop down in front of the television and enjoy some passive media.

This doesn’t mean the Internet is strictly an at-work tool. According to the study, 91 percent of at-work Internet users also go online from home. By conducting interviews on Tuesday through Saturday asking about yesterday’s media consumption, it was determined that at-work Internet users spend more of their total media minutes online than with any other medium. Specifically, 34 percent of total media minutes are spent on the Internet, while 30 percent are spent watching television and 26 percent are spent listening to the radio. (It should be noted that use of the Internet for email was specifically excluded in the questionnaire.) Among non-work users, the amount of time spent on the Internet during the workweek is second to the television.

The study also confirmed that daytime is prime time for the Internet. The Internet completely dominates daytime media use in the same way that television dominates evenings. It’s clear to see that consumers favor whichever medium is more conveniently appropriate for where they are and what they are doing. At home with the family, consumers are more likely to socialize in front of a television; at-work, Internet access is often a click away.

“Busy working people now spend more time on the Internet than they spend either watching television, listening to the radio or reading newspapers or magazines,” said Michael Zimbalist, acting executive director of the Online Publishers Association. “It is clear that the Internet is an extremely positive force in these users’ lives. Its value extends from productivity enhancement to information retrieval on high-quality media sites, making these sites a particularly compelling way for advertisers to reach their customers.”

What the OPA wants to make clear to advertisers is that by spending their marketing money online they will reach not only eyeballs, but eyeballs with the kind of demographics that advertisers crave. At-work Internet users are more likely to be aged 18 to 34 (45 percent vs. 26 percent of non-work Internet users); are more likely to be highly educated (70 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree vs. 50 percent); and have considerable spending power (45 percent have household income greater than $75,000 vs. 22 percent) than non-work Internet users. Seventy-nine percent of at-work users report that the Internet has made them more productive workers, and 69 percent indicate that it helps them balance their personal and professional lives.

The Internet is becoming the best tool medium for reaching consumers in the office for several reasons, not the least of which are its business-related applications and the ability of the user to choose the content. Still, the Internet still seems to be playing second fiddle to television among consumers who, in large part, are socially engineered to rely on television for many of their information needs. A study conducted by Market Facts for MSNBC, for example, found that when it comes to getting the news, the Internet is ahead of magazines, but still trails radio and both broadcast and cable television. A study by the Pew Internet & America Life Project found that even in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, the Internet was a backup to both television (for news) and the telephone (for communication).

The Internet’s dominance at work can also be attributed to many workers having their first Internet experience at the office. For many, it is still the only place they can go online. In Britain, for example, NetValue found that one-quarter of the workforce is connected to the Internet, and that Britain has twice as many at-work Internet users than at-home users.

In the United States, the Yankee Group’s Technologically Advanced Family Survey found that 7 percent of Internet users that own PCs at home choose not to access the Internet from home. The top reasons why Internet users don’t have Web access vary by household income, with expense being the primary factor separating access choices for low- and high-income households.

The top reason for not having Internet access among households with incomes of less than $25,000 was that access is too expensive, indicated by 72 percent of survey respondents. Additional reasons that low-income users do not choose home access include already having Internet access at work or school (12 percent), not wanting to tie up the phone line (10 percent), not wanting children using the Web (6 percent) and difficulty of use (4 percent).

Among users with incomes greater than $75,000, 47 percent cite having Internet access at work or school as the primary reason they do not have home access. Additional reasons include expense (21 percent), not tying up the phone line (12 percent), difficulty of use (11 percent) and lack of interest in the Web (11 percent).

“Historically, there has been a group of Internet users in the United States that have chosen not to have Internet access at home. The Yankee Group anticipates that by 2005, there will be over 800,000 PC-owning households in the United States that still don’t have PC-based Internet access,” said Rob Lancaster, analyst in the Internet Market Strategies Planning Service at the Yankee Group.

Christopher Saunders, from internet.com’s Internet Advertising Report, contributed to this article.

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