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Recession Drives Hunt for Online Info, Bargains

ecommerce and the economy
In case anyone was curious just how much the economic downturn has been on people's minds, the Pew Internet Project is on the case.

Pew today released a report finding that more than two-thirds of all American adults have taken to the Web for information or advice about the recession. That amounts to 88 percent of Internet users.

The online economic activities Pew's survey respondents reported over the past year ran the gamut from comparison shopping or seeking out economic news and analysis to looking for new jobs or exploring the possibility of taking of taking a second one.

"Internet users are on a dual quest in this recession," Pew Director and study co-author Lee Rainie said in a statement. "They are seeking highly practical advice about how to survive. And they are going online to gain understanding of what went wrong, and what policies might fix the economy."

Additionally, Pew identified a significant minority (34 percent) of online economic users who have been moved by the economic situation to create and post content to social networks, Twitter or blogs.

"In many cases, the Internet is also a pathway to contributing ideas -- and rants -- about hard times and a source of expert commentary," Rainie said.

The most active Web users seeking economic information tended to be the respondents to Pew's phone survey who had been hit hardest by the downturn. Over the past year, more than half of American adults have lost their jobs, taken a pay cut, or seen their investments or homes lose at least half their value, Pew reported.

Comparison shopping was the most common online activity stemming from the downturn, with 67 percent of online economic users saying they had hopped online to ferret out the best deal for an item they planned to buy.

Slightly more than half -- 52 percent -- said they went online to find news coverage and analysis to explain the genesis of the economic collapse.

Forty-one percent said they took to the Web to look for a new job, while 27 percent said they had used the Internet to explore the possibility of taking a second job.

Other activities included seeking advice on budgeting and personal finance, researching unemployment benefits, and looking to sell personal items online through sites like eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY).

In the broader media mix, the Internet trailed broadcast (TV and radio) as a source for economic information, though the gap narrowed when looking only at adults with a broadband connection at home.

Among broadband users, the Internet was put to equal use as print media as a source for general economic information. Survey respondents without broadband at home favored print over the Internet for economic news.