Study: At-Work Internet Usage Increases

Good news for promoters of the Internet as the chief way to reach workday audiences: there’s a larger audience, according to Nielsen//NetRatings .

The New York-based researcher found that U.S. usage of the Internet at work increased 17 percent from last year, with nearly 46 million logging in last month. Nielsen//NetRatings began measuring the at-work audience in January 2000.

A large part of that growth is due to an increase in Internet-connected women at the workplace. The figures suggest that the demographic grew 23 percent from last year, to 20.4 million. While men still outnumber women by about 5 million, their numbers grew at a slower rate. At the current rate of growth, women will outpace men online at the workplace by 2005.

That’s also good news for the online marketing industry, which stands to benefit from a greater appeal to advertisers as it becomes easier to reach the female demographic at work. For one thing, deep-pocketed consumer packaged goods manufacturers are especially eager to reach women, who, research suggests, make most of the purchasing decisions in American households.

NetRatings found that men spent more time online while at work — 31 hours in August, versus 27 for women — while viewing about 1,900 Web pages, while women on average viewed about 1,700.

“While women have long ago surpassed men in online usage at-home, historically the at-work Web population continues to be dominated by male surfers,” Charles Buchwalter, vice president of client analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings. “Last year, men comprised nearly 58 percent of the total at-work Web population, but female office workers are making some headway with their growth surge.”

NetRatings found that use of the Internet at work generally sees its usage peak between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., with a maximum of 86 percent of Web traffic coming from the workplace. On the other hand, Web use at home peaks at 8 p.m., and comprises 58 percent of Internet usage.

Those figures jibe with a recent study endorsed recently by trade groups like the Online Publishers Association, which concluded that the Internet is the chief medium used by consumers while at work.

The OPA, members of which include the online units of New York Times Co. and Washington Post Co. , has described the at-work Internet audience as representing the “Internet’s primetime,” and is working to encourage advertisers to value the Web similarly to the way they do evening television primetime.

“Web marketers are beginning to realize the consumer reach potential at work, as online usage at the office gains traction,” Buchwalter said. “The strong presence of the Internet within the workplace makes the Web a powerful complement to traditional media buys, where morning and evening consumption often dominates.”

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