Study reveals new Internet usage numbers

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The Internet may be bigger and smaller than you think.

According to a new IntelliQuest study, 35 million Americans age 16 and above went onto online services or the Web in the previous three months. That means 17% of the 16-plus market is going online.

But look more closely and "the numbers get really small really fast," said Brian Sharples, president of the market researcher.

Only 6.4 million people spend 10 or more hours a week online, and little more than 3 million say they "cruise" or "surf" the Net, the study found.

IntelliQuest discussed details of its first syndicated Web study at its Brand Tech Forum, a marketing conference that drew more than 400 people to San Francisco on Oct. 24.

"It's kind of a hard dose of reality," said Mr. Sharples in an interview. "The [online] experience isn't ready for prime time."

Mr. Sharples said he expects satisfaction to go up as speed and ease of access improves. But while the online universe is exploding despite the Web's shortcomings, he said Internet services and content must make the experience more satisfying to make users do more and buy more.

One sign of hype vs. reality: Despite the fascination with the Internet, IntelliQuest is finding more interest in a survey about corporate intranets.

"That's where people are making money," Mr. Sharples said. "In the Internet, a lot of people are throwing out a lot of money--and not making any."

Copyright October 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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