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Looking for a Killer Category? Try Entertainment

Forget investing. Forget e-mail. Americans are surfing the Internet primarily for entertainment purposes, says a new study of user preferences and habits online.

In fact, the bi-annual Netstyles survey from research firm Greenfield Online reports that more than 80 percent of approximately 3,000 respondents believe the Internet is a rich, diverse source of entertainment.

Rather than using the Net principally "for information," 83 percent said they play games on their computers -- both online and off.

And more of the study participants subscribe to fun/jokes/games updates (52 percent) than daily news updates (43 percent), e-mail newsgroups (31 percent), business updates (30 percent) or stock market updates (22 percent).

People are also discovering the convenience of the Internet's "entertainment-on-demand." Some 66 percent of those with multi-media capabilities are downloading music, for instance.

And many adults are clicking the mouse rather than clicking the TV remote. Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents are watching less TV since bringing the Internet into the home. Furthermore, a nearly equal number of respondents consider the TV and the Internet as the most important items in the household.

Respondents' comfort level with the Internet resembles that of the television. Just as people have become accustomed to coming home from work and "crashing" in front of the TV, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents log on to the Internet at home, at least several times a week after work.

While online, respondents are also listening to music/radio (61 percent), eating (58 percent), watching TV (44 percent) and talking on the phone (34 percent).

The study also found that some children are surfing the Web for entertainment, even more than channel surfing, perhaps offering the clearest glimpse of how the Internet will impact the family of the future. The study reveals the older the child, the more likely they are to log in rather than tune in.

Greenfield said all the signs indicate that the Internet will continue to be a common source of household entertainment in the coming years. More than a third (36 percent) said they intend to use the Internet more frequently one year from now than they do right now.

The Netstyles III study was conducted online between April 20 and April 26, 2000, with a sample of 3,352 respondents. The data has been weighted to represent the Internet population in terms of age, gender and region.