DATA DAMPEN INTERNET ARDOR;WEB GETS MORE COVERAGE THAN '96 PRESIDENTIAL RACE

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New research is providing more ammunition for those who contend Internet hype is getting out of hand.

A report due out this week from market researcher Inteco Corp., Norwalk, Conn., warns that marketers that focus too heavily on the Internet will bypass millions of households.

"If you're a Procter & Gamble or General Motors, you have to say, `Who is buying my product, and do they have PC skills?'*" said Inteco VP Harry Hoyle. "If not, [you must ask] `How else can I get through to them?'*"

Internet hype is even taking over this year's upcoming presidential election.

An electronic survey of 4,400 newspapers and magazines by Martin Interactive, Richmond, Va., found 98,589 stories using the words "Internet" or "interactive" between Jan. 1 and April 30. Articles mentioning presidential candidates Bill Clinton, Bob Dole or the election totaled just 49,259.

EXCEEDING CONSUMER INTEREST

"They are writing more stories than consumers are interested in reading," said Matt Thornhill, Martin Interactive president.

Inteco's research expands on that idea.

Its "Future Interactive Customers" report, based on ongoing research in 10,000 U.S. households, divides the U.S.' 93 million households into nine segments based on demographics, psychographics and interactive technology usage.

Only one-third of households, or 31 million, can be considered a primary market for the Internet or online services. These range from the 11 million "Fast Track Families" that use a PC at work and have a household income above $50,000, to the 10 million "Young Utopians," people 18 to 34 who have grown up using computers.

Even more households-37 million-may never be interested in the Internet, Inteco reports.

Groups in this category include the 14 million "Old Guard," who are 50 and above and rarely use technology, and the largest group, "No Work, No Worries," retired people who just don't need technology.

"The Internet [appeals] to households where information plays a big role in buying," Mr. Hoyle said. "Most households have other priorities when they buy."

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