Home Internet use expected to more than triple by 2002, study says

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While prevailing assumptions about Internet users are generally correct, advertisers and marketers who get past the generalities can find revealing information about target markets, according to a new Internet study released today.

The study from International Data Corp. and RelevantKnowledge is the first in a series of four focused on home Internet users. The companies estimate the number of home users will increase from 30 million in 1997 to almost 102 1million in 2002. During that same period, people who buy products and services over the Web will jump from 36% to 50% of total users, and spending will shoot up from $4.3 billion to $54 billion.

As discovered by other research, Web-user salaries and education levels skew higher than the U.S. census average. And there are more men on the Internet, although only a slight majority at 56%.The study also shows some not-so-familiar results.

Both teen-age girls and women over 50, for instance, are frequent users of special communications, such as virtual cards and gift sites. And Web surfing habits of teen girls more closely resemble that of adult women than teen boys.

"This [study] is intended to help advertisers and marketers better understand who's on the Web," said Jill Frankle, manager of IDC's consumer Internet program.

IDC and RelevantKnowledge grouped home users into six categories by frequency of use, ranging from "accidental surfers," who use the Web one hour or less per month, to "die-hard users," who are online more than 30 hours per month.

The lighter-use segments tend to be more populated by females, but, Ms. Frankle said, females probably will use the Web more as commerce increases and additional content catering to women comes online.

While not commenting specifically on this study, ad agency executives said any insight into consumer use of the Internet is welcome.

"We absolutely need to document the behavior and understand the users," said Lynn Bolger, senior VP-Web media director, Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York. "Getting this sort of information is necessary in the justification of expenditures in this medium."

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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