By: B. G. Yovovich

Net Users Loyal to Their Niches

Web Fosters Social Isolation

Web/Isolation Controversy, Part Two

Streamies Important Net Audience

Radio Jumps On Web Opportunities

Toy Companies Embrace Threat From Technology

Web-based Tax Filing Up Significantly

Net Users Loyal to Their Niches

Rather than explore the ever-expanding reaches of the World Wide Web,
Net users tend to return to their favorite sites day after day, reports
Statistical Research Inc. (SRI), Westfield, N.J.

Based on detailed telephone interviews with over 2,400 people, SRI
found that 34% of visitors to an average Web site on a given day return
to that site the next day, and 62% of those visitors have the site
bookmarked in their browser. In addition, 85% of ‘yesterday Web users’
reported visiting just one or two sites during a typical 3-hour day.

‘Consumers are establishing Web-use patterns that mirror those we see
in TV and radio – choosing a few favorite destinations and returning to
them on a daily basis,’ says David C. Tice, senior project director of
the survey.

On the other hand, 57% Internet users also report they regularly search
the Internet and the most common reported activity – other than e-mail
– is looking for product information (reported by 46%).



Web Fosters Social Isolation

The Internet is increasing social isolation and the more hours people
use the Internet, the less time they spend with real human beings,
reports an extensive study by Stanford University researchers. Of note
to newspapers, the study says one-third of Internet users read
newspapers less often.

The research, based on a sample of 4,113 adults in 2,689 households,
was designed to provide an early-stage assessment of the social
consequences of Internet use. Its findings &#151 disputed by some
already (see item below) – show new technology is causing Americans to:

? spend less time with friends and family

? spend less time shopping in stores or watching television

? spend more time working for their employers at home without cutting
back hours in the office

The study also says:

? People spend more hours on the Internet the longer they have been
using it.

? A quarter of the respondents who use the Internet regularly (more
than five hours a week) feel it has reduced both time with friends and
family and the number of events attended outside the home.

? A quarter of regular Internet users who are employed say the Internet
has increased the time they spend working at home without cutting back
at the office.

? Sixty percent of regular Internet users say the Internet has reduced
their TV viewing, and one-third say they spend less time reading

? The least educated and the oldest Americans are least likely to have
Internet access, but when they do use the Internet, their use is
similar to others’ use.

Significant differences were found depending on the amount of Internet
activity. About two-thirds of those surveyed said they spend fewer than
five hours a week on the Internet, and most of them did not report
large changes in their day-to-day behavior. In contrast, the largest
changes are reported by those who spend more than 10 hours a week on
the Net (who currently account for 15% of all Internet users).

‘As of today, heavy Internet users are still a small fraction of the
total population, but that fraction is steadily growing,’ says Norman
Nie, director of the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of
Society (SIQSS) and principal investigator of the study, along with his
co-investigator Lutz Erbring of the Free University in Berlin. Time on
the Net was ‘coming out of time viewing television but also at the
expense of time people spend on the phone gabbing with family and
friends or having a conversation with people in the room with them.’

Added Erbring: ‘Time spent on the Net also grows with the number of
years a person has been connected.’

Even though most Internet users use e-mail, and undoubtedly have
increased their ‘conversations’ with family and friends through this
medium, Nie says, ‘E-mail is a way to stay in touch, but you can’t
share a coffee or a beer with somebody on e-mail or give them a hug.
The Internet could be the ultimate isolating technology that further
reduces our participation in communities even more than television did
before it. It’s not like TV, which you can treat as background noise.
It requires more engagement and attention.’

One-quarter of regular Internet users, those online for five or more
hours a week, report spending less time with family and friends, either
in person or on the phone, and 10% say they spend less time attending
social events outside the home.

The researchers also said they were particularly struck by the extent
to which the Internet has caused work to invade the home. ‘One of the
surprises for us was the degree to which people tell us that they are
working at home on the Internet for their employers,’ Nie says.

Of regular Internet users working full or part time:

? 16% of employed regular Internet users said they were working more
hours at home since they gained Internet access.

? 8% actually report increases in time spent working both at home and
at the office.
? Only 4% said they had cut back their hours at work since gaining
Internet access.

One other noteworthy finding: Digital behavior appears to converge with
increasing online experience. ‘Once people have access to the Internet,
there are more similarities than differences in terms of how much they
use it and the activities they use it for,’ Nie says. ‘Once people have
access, blacks look like whites, the college educated look like the
non-college educated, and age groups tend to be more homogeneous than
we might have thought, except for those above age 65.’



Web/Isolation Controversy, Part Two

Responses to the Stanford study quickly disputed that the Internet
fosters increased social isolation. And some said the study’s
methodology is flawed.

For example, representatives of MyFamily.com Inc. in Orem, Utah, argued
that ‘while the Stanford survey suggests Internet use is creating
isolation among family and friends, we have found that MyFamily.com
users are spending their time on the Internet to bring their families
together as was never before possible,’ says Curt Allen, chairman of

Other detractors:

? Everest Broadband Networks, a provider of high-speed access in
commercial and residential buildings, points out that online networks
can build local discussions about neighborhood politics and develop
relationships with neighbors they may not otherwise meet.

? Blue Barn Interactive, a new-media agency specializing in community
development for such sites as Martha Stewart, A&E TV and America
Online, argues the Internet connects, rather than isolates,
geographically dispersed family, friends, businesses, and like-minded


Streamies Important Net Audience

‘Streamies’ – a term used to describe those who regularly listen to
online audio – are highly responsive to dot-com advertisements and
purchase more on the Web than Internet users who are not listening
online, according to Arbitron NewMedia/Edison Media in New York.

The study, which was released at the annual Radio Advertising Bureau
Marketing Leadership Conference in Denver, found that:

? Streamies spend almost 50% more time online than the average Internet
user, averaging 11 hours and 14 minutes weekly on the Web.

? 60% of streamies have made a purchase from a Web site.

? Almost one-third (32%) of streamies made Web-based gift purchases
during the 1999 holiday season.
? Nearly two-thirds (63%) of streamies have clicked on Web advertising.

‘Online listeners are worth their weight in gold to Webcasters and
advertisers targeting the Internet audience,’ says Bill Rose, vice
president/general manager, Arbitron Internet Information Services.
‘Broadcasters and Internet audio channels, who are streaming media on
the Internet, have a chance to deliver advertising to a highly valuable
new breed of consumer – streamies – who are more Web-savvy, buy more
online, and have more disposable income.’

Data analysis indicated that twice as many online listeners come from
homes with an annual income of $100K or more (18%) compared to those on
the Internet who are not listening online (8%). Fifteen percent of
streamies have attended some graduate school, nearly double the amount
of those Internet users who don’t listen online (8%). Seventy-nine
percent of online radio listeners are likely to visit a Web site
advertised on their favorite radio station and nearly two-thirds (62%)
of online listeners have visited a Web site they learned about from
radio advertising.



Radio Jumps On Web Opportunities

Broadcast radio will move aggressively to take advantage of Webcasting,
predicts Robertson Stephens, senior broadcasting analyst at William
Meyers in San Francisco.

More specifically, Webcast-delivered audio offers opportunities to:

? expand radio’s listener base beyond the local market,

? develop multiple revenue streams beyond commercial inventory,

? generate e-commerce income,

? sell classified ads, and

? garner a host of non-traditional revenues.

‘The radio industry has been slow to embrace the Web,’ Meyers says. ‘At
present, we estimate that just 45% of radio stations have Web sites and
only one-third of them offer streaming audio. Despite the slow start,
we believe radio has a number of inherent advantages over Internet
Webcasters in developing a well-positioned Web strategy. These include
the industry’s ability to leverage its powerful brands, existing
infrastructure, relationships with advertisers, and loyal and
established listener base.’

‘Most of the larger, publicly traded radio companies are in the early
stages of their Internet initiatives and we expect each of the major
groups to accelerate and more effectively articulate their
comprehensive efforts in the coming months,’ Meyers says. ‘While the
industry’s efforts to date have largely lagged those of Web-centric
companies, we believe technological constraints provide a window of
opportunity for radio companies to leverage their platforms into
dominant Web franchises.’



Toy Companies Embrace Threat From Technology

Toy companies are using technology to blur the distinction between toys
and consumer electronics, representing a shift in strategies, says
TechTrends Inc., a technology market research firm in New York.

In particular, toy companies are leveraging advanced technologies to
create high-tech toys that give children new ways to communicate and
exchange information. The most promising items incorporate Internet
connectivity and wireless communication.

‘The Internet offers substantial opportunities for toymakers,’ says
Todd D. Wiener, managing director of TechTrends Inc. ‘Many toys can now
download fresh, personalized content from Web sites, offering consumers
nearly limitless play value. And wireless technologies, such as 900 MHz
radio frequency, give toys some of the same capabilities that had been
limited to handheld computers and mobile phones.’

The moves come at a critical time for the toy industry, as children are
not only spending more time and money using the Internet and playing
video games, but they are losing interest in traditional toys at a
younger age. A key to future success is expected to involve the savvy
use of technology to improve toys’ appeal.

‘Technology doesn’t have to compete with toys,’ says Todd D. Wiener,
managing director. ‘Instead, it can be used to enhance the existing
value of a toy and recapture the lost interest and attention of



Web-based Tax Filing Up Significantly

By mid-February, nearly 900,000 tax filers had started a federal return
using TurboTax for the Web, including 405,000 who had completed their
returns, reports TurboTax parent company Intuit Inc. in San Diego.

By comparison, approximately 240,000 federal returns were completed
through the TurboTax Web-based service for the entire tax season last

In addition, Intuit reports that 259,000 state returns have also been
prepared using the service so far this year. Also, 1.4 million federal
and 575,000 state returns have been electronically transmitted so far
this year through its Quicken TurboTax and Quicken MacInTax programs.





B.G. Yovovich is an author and business writer based in Evanston,
Ill., who specializes in new media issues. His most recent book is
‘New Marketing Imperatives: Innovative Strategies for Today’s
Marketing Challenges.’


(c) Copyright 1999, Editor & Publisher

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