Study: At-Work Audience is Huge, Affluent

The Internet is the place to be during work hours, with a large and wealthy audience mostly tethered to their computers, according to a new study.

The study, done by eMarketer in partnership with The Wall Street Journal Online, adds to a growing body of research that shows the Internet should be the prime marketing vehicle for advertisers looking to reach consumers while they work.

Culling statistics from a number of research sources, eMarketer found, unsurprisingly, that the Internet is increasingly central to the days of desk-bound office workers, who tend to be a highly educated and wealthy audience. The researcher pegs the at-work Internet audience at 50 million — about one third of all U.S. workers. Since Internet users at work tend to work in white-collar jobs, they are, on average, highly educated and well off: 70 percent have college degrees and 50 percent have a household income above $75,000.

“For advertisers who want to reach employed adults during the day, the Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity,” said Geoff Ramsey, eMarketer’s chief executive. “There’s a virtual elephant in the room — one that marketers can no longer choose to ignore.”

The sizable Internet audience during the day has given rise to publishers dabbling in dayparts, so they can receive a premium from marketers to get their messages across during key hours. The efforts, led by CBS Marketwatch’s pioneering 2001campaign to push Budweiser during “happy hour” in the late afternoon, have borne some fruit.

Last June, NYTimes.com debuted “Site Sessions,” which give a sponsor prominent placement throughout the site at a set time. The site has said it can charge a premium of up to 25 percent for ads running during heavy-traffic hours in the day.

NYTimes.com also linked up with a number of fellow online publishers in an ad-sales consortium called the “At-Work Brand Network” in June 2002. Last October, AOL announced it would begin selling time-targeted ads. Yahoo has sold dayparts since 2001, and its executives have expressed interest in using them further.

The research backs up findings by publishers’ organizations, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). Earlier this month, the OPA, which has long lobbied for the work hours to be viewed as the Internet’s “primetime,” published guidelines to define dayparts. The OPA believes marketers have a great opportunity to advertise on content sites, which it says draw an audience of 3.8 million users per minute.

The OPA echoed findings by the NAA, which in late January released a study that found the Internet is five times more effective than television at reaching consumers during the day.

The eMarketer report found that the at-work audience also has some other enticing traits for marketers. Since 86 percent of users have broadband access at work, they are more likely to shop online, with 60 percent of e-commerce sales coming from consumers at work.

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