Study: Net Hurts Offline Communications, Media Use

Evidence continues to mount suggesting that the Internet is chipping away at traditional forms of media consumption and communications, according to a new study by GartnerG2.

Based on a recent consumer survey, the Stamford, Conn.-based research group found that the Internet and email changed consumers’ offline activities for a significant percentage of users.

In the communications arena, more than half of consumers said they use postal mail less than they had previously, before the Internet.

That’s one of the reasons that the U.S. Postal Service is struggling with a $6 billion decline in mail volume from last year. In June, the agency instituted postal rate hikes as part of its efforts to cope with the trend.

About a third of those polled by Gartner also said they placed fewer long-distance telephone calls.

With regard to media consumption, the Gartner survey found that 20 percent of Web users watch television less than they had before the Internet, while about the same percentage agreed for reading newspapers.

About 18 percent said they go to see fewer movies, while about 15 percent also said they watch videos and read magazines less often.

The study is the latest to support the theory that new media has had a deleterious effect on traditional media use, although the percentage of Web users impacted seems to be consistent, compared to last year.

Last May, Scarborough Research’s study of consumer media habits produced similar numbers, with about a quarter of Internet subscribers saying they watched less television, and about 20 percent saying the same was true for newspapers and magazines.

However, the larger worry for offline communications and media providers should center around continued growth in the Internet, with some estimates predicting that the Internet population will almost double within two years.

Additionally, other research has suggested that certain consumer segments respond more enthusiastically than others to the Internet. Mothers, for instance, appeared to dramatically reduce television use when the Internet is available, likely as a result of having less free time to allocate to media consumption than do other groups.

“Traditional media and advertisers should take advantage of this change in consumption habits and develop Internet and email distribution channels and marketing plans that incorporate these behavior changes,” said GartnerG2 Research Director Denise Garcia. “Traditional media [should] find out how your current customers use the Internet and email.”

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