ARBITRON ANALYSIS PROBES LIFESTYLES

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If you can't get enough of interactive media, you're most likely a fast laner. Comfortable with technology but choosy about what you read or view? You're a savvy sophisticate all the way. And if you find yourself hanging around the new-media sidelines, you're a bystander.

Those labels come courtesy of Arbitron NewMedia, Columbia, Md., which last week released the second, more qualitative phase of its Pathfinder study on new-media usage.

While the first phase of the study was quantitative, focusing on the demographics of computer and technology users in the U.S., the new findings attempt to uncover lifestyles and values that motivate consumer behavior.

Based on 2,136 mail surveys completed last December, Arbitron identified eight distinct segments of U.S. consumers, ranging from the "fast laners" to the "settled set," a group uncomfortable with new-media technologies.

"Companies are spending an awful lot of time and money creating services and applications that are brand new," said Roberta McConochie, director of strategic research at Arbitron NewMedia. "Because no one knows too much about new media, Arbitron has focused on pinpointing the prime drivers that cause people to do things."

Understanding consumer motives and desires is crucial, she said. For example, online shopping and TV shopping networks appeal to different consumers for different reasons.

"People watch home shopping shows for entertainment and for fun, which could appeal to segments who are family-focused, fast laners who like experimenting with anything or the diverse strivers who are price conscious," said Ms. McConochie. "Shopping online, on the other hand, appeals more to savvy sophisticates who are driven by information and are focused on efficiency."

That means the marketing and content of new-media services need to be aimed at a specific target audience.

"There is no killer application in interactive; the key will be figuring out how interactive fits into the lifestyle of your target audience," Ms. McConochie said. "Like music on the radio serves different purposes-like calming or exciting or inspiring-interactive will do the same."

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