Web Publishers: Net Tops TV For Key Audiences

A consortium of Web publishers is ramping up its pitch to advertisers, citing results from a new study that found that online usage exceeded television among an Internet-savvy audience.

The Online Publishers Association, which represents companies like New York Times Digital, MarketWatch.com and CondeNet, said a recent survey of Internet access and media consumption found that among the estimated 53 million adults that use the Web at both work and home, the Internet is the most-used medium during the typical 24-hour weekday.

The 1,000-person survey, conducted by Web researcher Millward Brown IntelliQuest, found that the Internet ranked first during the 9-to-5 workday. Not surprisingly, however, television vaulted into the lead after the typical workday’s end.

But the research also uncovered that a whopping 91 percent of at-work Web users often also log-on at home. As a result, the Internet also has a major audience even during television’s prime-time. Even in evening and late-night viewing blocks, the Web is second only to television among the demographic.

As a result, the survey found that the group spent more time on the Internet (not including e-mail) during a typical workweek than they spent watching television. From Monday to Friday, at-work Internet users spend 34 percent of their media consumption time on the Internet. That’s versus 30 percent on television and 26 percent on radio.

“Since these ‘multi-connectors,’ people who connect to the Internet from work and from home, now spend more time online than they do watching television, there’s no better media choice for reaching [them] than online,” said Michael Zimbalist, acting executive director of the New York-based Online Publishers Association.

Meanwhile, Millward Brown research suggested that the at-work Internet user segment has highly desirable demographics — compared to consumers that don’t use the Internet at the workplace, at-work users are more likely to be in the highly sought-after 18-34 age range, are more likely to be highly educated, and typically have higher household incomes.

Additionally, the survey’s results also suggested that Web advertising topped television in several other crucial ways. For instance, among at-work Internet users, Internet ads ranked as the most-important advertising medium for helping them decide what to buy.

“There are certain types of advertising that this affluent, busy crowd preferred to receive — online — as opposed to other media,” Zimbalist said. “Online ads are the type of advertising that helps them decide what to buy, more so than TV, radio or print.”

The survey also found that most online purchases took place at home, rather than at the workplace — suggesting that even though Web users saw ads during the day, their follow-through generally occurred later. That’s a feather in the cap of advocates of impression-based ad sales, who maintain that Internet advertising is most effective as a branding medium, rather than for direct-response.

“Transactional-type behaviors are much more likely to take place at home, which earlier research from companies like Avenue A have borne out,” Zimbalist said, referring to a December, 2000 study by the Seattle-based Web ad firm suggesting that impressions are better indicators of conversions than clicks. “Ads may be viewed during the week, but they take action later, so the click-through is not the best measure of success.”

The OPA is banking that the findings represent a compelling argument for advertisers to increase their media spending on the Internet.

“We set out to do this research to answer a fundamental question about why markers and advertisers need to consider online as part of their media plan,” Zimbalist said. “The implication for advertisers is that to reach this affluent, educated market…there’s no better place to reach them than online — that’s where they’re spending most of their time.”

“The Internet has become part of their daily routine,” he added. “These are busy working people who use the Internet to help balance personal and professional lives during the day. They view Internet news as the primary way of keeping in touch with the world. This makes a pretty strong case for advertisers to change their media mix.”

That might be, but the study’s results also make a powerful case for publishers and ad reps to increase their efforts at selling dayparts, to reach the at-work audience and to capitalize, perhaps, on the buying mood of consumers logging in from home.

“There’s a clear implication that [dayparts] are an increasing opportunity for online advertising,” Zimbalist said. “There’s also the possibility here for further research, for the different mindsets of consumers at various times of the day. We’re starting to think about the time people spend on particular sites, and about more effective ad units to capitalize on that fact.”

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