Another Survey Paints Rosy Picture of Web Use

By: Steve Outing

Online services research firm Jupiter Communications and Yahoo! released their joint "Web User Survey" yesterday, and it presents a rosy view of the World Wide Web and its promise of becoming a mass market medium. I'll spend oday's column summarizing the results, which should please newspaper online service operators on the Web.

This survey comes on the heels of the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press Online Usage Survey, which I reported on last week. It might be interesting after you read this column to take a look back at the Times Mirror study for comparison. (I'll put the URL at the bottom of this column.)

The results are from more than 60,000 Yahoo! users who took part in 2 surveys distributed online. (Yahoo! is the dominant Web directory and search service.) The survey did not estimate a number of Web users, but rather provides a "snapshot" of who Web users are, what they do on the Web, and what they want from future Web services.

* 55% of respondents accessed the Web primarily from home. 85% said they at least sometimes access the Web from the home. Says Jupiter's Kurt Abrahamson, "The large numbers of current users accessing from home validates the notion that the Web is truly a developing consumer medium." It also dispels the popular notion that most people who use the Web access it from office or educational computer networks.

* 50% of respondents access the Web via direct dial through an Internet access provider; 40% access it through their employer's or school's network; and only 8% access the Web primarily through a commercial online service. Says Jupiter, "This shows that the huge potential market of consumer online service subscribers -- approaching 9 million subscriptions by year's end -- has not really begun to migrate to the Web yet. If this group joins the early adopters, the universe of Web consumers may double or triple in size in short order."

* The average Yahoo!/Jupiter respondent was a single American male between 25 and 34, in a professional managerial career, with income between $30,000 and $50,000, and at least a college degree. "This demographic has the disposable income and the inclination to do transactions online," the Jupiter report states.

* 46% of Web-using respondents have more than one computer in their households.

* 6 in 10 of Web users have access to a commercial online service. In other words, many of those people who access the Web via an Internet provider also subscribe to at least one other online service.

* The majority of respondents have been using the Web for less than 1 year. The average user is on the Web more than once a day, and spent 75 minutes on the most recent online session before taking the survey.

* The average respondent spends 20 hours online per week.

* 35% reported that Web "surfing" was their primary activity online. Email came in second with 28% reporting that as their most frequent activity.

* 61% of these Web users said they are spending less time watching TV because of their online activities.

* 66% said they are unwilling to pay a monthly fee to enter a Web site.

* Of those willing to pay for entry to a Web site, 55% said they would be willing to pay $1 to $4 a month for a worthwhile service.

* Nearly 30% reported making an online purchase in the past 6 months, with 66% of those making the purchase through a Web site.

So, what do these results mean? Well, it might silence some of the Web's critics who long have contended that most of the people using the Web were students and office workers cheating time from the boss to "surf." I had expected that when the online services like America Online and Prodigy opened up the Web to their users earlier this year, Web use from the home would boom. This survey indicates that that's not what's happening. Rather, the majority of people are accessing the Web from home using accounts with Internet access providers. Internet usage in the home is becoming mainstream, even without the online services' help.

I see this survey as more good news. Not only are numbers of online users growing fast, as previous surveys have shown, but Web usage is moving out of the office and into the home. That spells good news for purveyors of consumer services and those who want to sell online, and opens up new opportunities for online publishers to attract consumer advertisers onto their Web sites.

To learn more about the survey, I suggest you check out Jupiter's Web site.

Times Mirror survey

I summarized the results of the Times Mirror online usage survey in a column last week. Check it out now if you missed that column.

Steve Got a tip? Let me know about it

If you have a newsworthy item about the newspaper new media business, please send me a note.

This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at

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