give a hint
about the kind of people who check out that Web site you've created
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #363 October 8, 1996 High Tech Office column
Last week, we noted that Bill Kinsella's
overworked line--"Build it and they will come"--isn't entirely accurate
comes to putting your business's pages up on the Internet. As one
of the ever-growing millions of World Wide Web sites, your home page
needs to be publicized actively if you expect anyone outside your
immediate family to notice that it's there.
the question, "Build it and who will come?" CommerceNet,
a grouping of companies pushing the use of the Net for electronic
commerce, has sponsored Neilsen Media Research to try to find
the answer to just that question. Neilsen checked Internet use in
the U.S. and Canada in two phases--first by contacting 4,200
aged 16 or older, in August 1995, and then by recontacting 2,800 of
the original group last spring.
of the study, Internet access rose from 16 per cent to 24 per cent.
However, in both cases, only about 17 per cent of the people surveyed
had actually made any use of the Internet in the past six months.
About half of the people who had used the Internet were defined as new
users, and that population was quite different from so-called longtime
users (those who had used the Internet prior to the summer of 1995).
new users are increasingly "mainstream": although income levels remain
high, new users are less well-off than the long-timers. All are using
the World Wide Web more frequently, but while longtime users are making
more use of the Web for business purposes, on average, new users are
spending a lower proportion of their on-line time for business (though
the actual number of business users of the Web continues to rise).
buying and selling
over the Web have increased, with 30 per cent of the Web's business
users engaging in purchases. Other business uses declined, however,
including drops in the percentage of those who use the Web to gather
information or provide service or support.
per cent of
the longtime users thought of themselves as computer professionals,
this dropped to 11 per cent of the newcomers. Still predominantly
male, the newcomers were closer to a gender balance--60/40 male
to 67/33 male in the earlier user group. It is, however, those
male, often computer-professional longtime users who tend to be
Internet users, with 24 per cent of them reporting connecting more
than once a day, while fully 47 per cent reported connecting at least
once in the past 24 hours. A summary of the survey's results can be
found at www.commerce.net.
however, suggests that while the number of new Internet users continues
to grow, the rate of increase is slowing. Research by Yankelovich
Partners of Norwalk, Connecticut, suggests that the number of
new Internet users doubled (at least in the U.S.) between May 1994
and May 1995, but that this explosive growth was cut in half during
the following year, which suggests the end of the Internet as faddish
curiosity. The study looked at Internet users identified from a group
of 16,000 surveyed, and found that time spent on-line had dropped from
an average of 16 hours per month last year to 12 hours per month in
Neilsen, Yankelovich found the typical user to be male, between
30 and 49,
with an average household income of about $65,000. About 20 per cent
reported having made an on-line purchase. The report can be obtained
from (203) 846-0100.
be too surprising--like a chain letter, the number of new Net users
simply couldn't continue to double each year for long. At the 1994
growth rate, everyone on the planet would have been connected to the
Net within eight or nine years. And what do new users find when they do
connect to the Net? Lots of information, certainly, but the bulk of
it is still about computers or pop culture, with a sprinkling of sex.
Trying to locate specific facts can be difficult and time-consuming,
demanding constant filtering out of hundreds of irrelevant
The Web can be engaging, but is it up to competing with TV for a mass
belongs on the Internet, but take the time to first clarify your
What is the purpose of your Internet presence? Who do you expect to
make use of your business's Web site? When you can answer these
by all means, build your site. And then, with a lot of ongoing
and work, maybe they (whoever they are) will come.