Internet use doesn't mean less time watching television

Using the Internet doesn’t cause people to watch less TV, according to Forrester Research. The analyst house therefore concludes that marketers shouldn’t necessarily switch to online advertising in order to hit more consumers.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  May 6, 2002

Using the Internet doesn’t cause people to watch less television, according to Forrester Research. The analyst house therefore concludes that marketers shouldn’t necessarily switch to online advertising in order to reach more consumers.

Since the Internet first entered people’s home, marketing and media executives have debated whether use of the Web replaced the consumption of other media or if was incremental. As Fraser Pearce, research director at Forrester, explains, “the answer to this has far-reaching ramifications for the future of advertising — if online consumers read fewer magazines and watch less TV, media companies should move their advertising budgets appropriately.”

Forrester’s figures suggest that online consumers do spend less time watching TV — 8% less than their offline counterparts — but this may not be directly because of the Internet. Instead, the analyst house concludes that early adopters of the Net are simply less keen on TV than other people. It further adds that as the Internet becomes increasingly mainstream, online consumers will bring their offline TV consumption habits with them.

The lack of cannibalisation may provide cheer for ailing TV companies reliant on advertisers, but it won’t help marketing managers decide how to spend their budgets.

“With advertising rates under significant pressure, broadcasters need all the help they can get when arguing for sustained income. The absence of measurable cannibalisation is good news — marketers can’t argue down TV ad rates by saying that other media are becoming more important... But when it comes to balancing TV ad budgets and online ad budgets, the conclusion for marketers is unfortunate — consumers use both, so moving money from one channel to the other isn’t the solution. As a result, comparable effectiveness metrics for online and offline advertising become more and more important. A dollar less spent on TV for the sake of online advertising may be a misguided decision,” concludes Pearce.

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