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The universe of people who influence business purchases of high tech equipment has grown 7.1% to 21 million, an IntelliQuest study shows.

But the universe of people who influence home purchases of similar products is catching up, growing a whopping 17.1% from 1994, to 18 million.

The Computer Industry Media Study by Austin, Texas-based IntelliQuest measures readership and TV viewership among people who influence business purchases of computers and related products, and, separately those who control home purchases.

The second year of the study, unlike the first one in 1994, treats the categories-business and home influencers-as distinct groups. But 9.8 million of the total influence purchasing decisions both at work and at home.

Other findings include:

Of the business influencers, 90% had purchase involvement with computer systems; 73% with software; 67% with printers/plotters; 59% with other peripherals and 22% with networking.

On average, these business influencers plan to spend $113,555 in the next year.

The primary job responsibility of nearly 15% of all business influencers is purchase involvement and advice, up 64% from 1994.

Some 251,000 people purchased wide-area telecommunications in the past 12 months; another 183,000 plan to do so in the next year.

More than 60% of all adult influencers are between the ages of 25 and 44; the second largest group is 45 to 54 years old.

Reaction by media planners is that the study has value-especially in terms of the growing use of online services.

"It seems to be on target," said Jean McHenry, media director, Kuhn & Wittenborn, Kansas City, Mo.

Martha Felt, president of the Martha Felt Group, a Salt Lake City media marketing and management agency, described the study as "a primary tool. .... I'm going to be playing with it over the next few weeks. Of course, every magazine rep will then tell me why their publication exactly fits the results. I've never seen one send out a press release saying `Aw shucks, we did badly.'*"

Bob Storch, partner-media director of Poppe Tyson, New York, said his philosophy on such studies is that if "done professionally, as this one is, you generally don't have anything better. The publications that you're looking at for the software industry .*.*. the differences are pretty finite. It's not like People and Sports Illustrated. It's the same types of magazines with different editorial slants but after the same audience."

David Yoder, media director at Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, said the study is "a rich enough sample that you can dissect in many ways.... It tells you what's up and how high up it is."

Among other findings, the CIMS report said the use of online services is exploding. Of business influencers, 6.7 million have accessed online services in the past six months, and another 3.6 million plan to do so in the next 12. Generally, they log on 18 times a month for an average of 30 minutes.

For the home influencers, more than 7 million have logged online in the past six months; another 7.2 million are ready to leap.

"That's definitely on track with our research," said Ms. Felt. "Online is growing. People are responding to the marketing efforts by the online companies. So many CDs [offering free initial online services] are out there it's amazing."

Time will tell whether online services will still be popular after the initial rush, Ms. Felt said.

Mr. Storch said online services are going to be important, "but it's not going to be like cable. Sixty-six percent of TV subscribers have cable and that's their basic entertainment. I'm not saying the computer is not going to be part of our lifestyle, but I'd be hard-pressed to think that it'll take the place of cable."

He also said online will not replace TV. "You won't want to use it every day. For one thing, it's costly. People are getting shaken up when they get their bills."

Fitness walking (89%) and swimming (85%) are the two most popular activities for business influencers. Only 38% are golfers.

"That's very important," said Ms. McHenry. "Golf takes too long for these younger people." Said Mr. Storch, "That's not surprising. They're all under 40."

Ms. Welch is a correspondent with Business Marketing.

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