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1 in 6 U.S. Adults Uses Online Services or Internet, Survey Says

Cyberspace: Though many find the technology 'indispensable,' almost half are frustrated by it.

May 08, 1997|ELIZABETH CORCORAN | WASHINGTON POST

More than 31 million Americans age 18 or older--about one in six adults--regularly use the Internet or commercial online services, a study has found. But many are finding it a bittersweet experience.

Although a growing number of people describe it as "indispensable," almost half of all users find the technology "somewhat" or "very" difficult to use.

According to a study conducted by Find/SVP, a market research group based in New York, an additional 9 million people have used the Net in the last year but don't consider themselves regular users.

"There's definitely dissatisfaction with the complexity of using" the Internet, said Thomas Miller, who directed the 1997 study for Find/SVP.

Find/SVP developed its estimates by surveying 1,000 randomly selected Internet users and 1,000 nonusers by telephone from February through April.

"We've moved past the curiosity stage for lots of people," Miller said. Instead, he said, the Internet is becoming "a very substantial communications utility."

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As people turn to the Net for news, they are spending less time with traditional sources of information. About 35% of Internet users said they are watching less television. More than 20% of Internet users are spending less time on long-distance telephone calls. Sixteen percent of Internet users say they spend less time with magazines, newspapers and other personal computer applications.

There is at least one other activity that people give up when they enter the world of computers, added Kate Delhagen, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, a market research group in Cambridge, Mass.

"When a PC arrives in the house, the first thing that goes is sleep," she said. "Then it chips away at other media."

Users told Find/SVP that the Internet's greatest charm is the vast amount of information it can offer, but they also said they often cannot find what they are seeking.

"Only 22% of adult users said they're completely satisfied with their ability to find things" on the Internet, Miller said.

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The longer people use the Internet, the more likely they are to buy something via the electronic network, according to the study. Although few people can recall the ads they've seen online, as many as one in three users reported having "clicked on an ad"--in other words, jumped from the online ad to additional information about an organization's goods or services. As much as 11% of all users have purchased something online after looking at an ad.

According to Miller, the five most likely online purchases by consumers are computer software, books, computer hardware, gifts and flowers, and music compact discs and related music items.

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