Who is Online?
- How Many Have Access to WWW?
- It Is Also Global
- Your target Audience
- Demographic Profile
- WWW Usage Patterns
- How Do They Access WWW?
- Issues Regarding Growth Potential
How many have access to WWW?
There have been a number of surveys developed to estimate the number of
people who have access to WWW and the Internet. It is very important,
from a marketing perspective, to understand the numbers of consumers that
have access to WWW, who they are and their motivation for being online.
The following reasons make it very difficult to estimate the number of
consumers who access WWW
and the Internet.
Thus to get gross estimates of WWW/Internet access we have to use sample
population surveys. Two issues that have helped create more conflict in
the survey results are:
- It is in a significant growth phase. Hence survey data will differ
when comparing two surveys that were conducted at different times.
- It is a distributed medium. Unlike estimating those that have access
to TV, its a little more complex than estimating the number of TVs
(computers) sold, or the number of viewers per program (a finite number of
programs centrally controlled by a few). WWW information is hosted
on over 460,000 webservers (Netcraft Web Server Survey,
- It is also futile to use the number of hosts (computers with Internet
access) to estimate the number of users with access. Current estimates
are that there are betwen 3 and 7 people accessing the Internet per host
(16,146,000 hosts, January 1997).
The estimates that I am going to report are provided by CyberAtlas. These are consensus
not estimates from original research by CyberAtlas. To give you an
illustration of the diversity in the estimates reported by various
surveys, looking at US Internet/WWW use consider the following examples.
Louis Harris &
Assoc. (Nov 16, 1996) reported 35 million users (defined as U.S. adult
Internet users). O'Reilly & Assoc. (July 1995) reported 5.8
users (defined as U.S. users with direct Internet access).
- Interpretation of questions, i.e. what is meant by access to WWW to
one person on one survey could have an entirely different meaning to
another on another survey (using slightly different wording in the
- The representation of the sample to the entire population. For
example, the CommerceNet/Nielson Internet Demographics studies have been
severely criticized on this point.
CyberAtlas estimates are that:
14.9 million Internet users, September 1995
26.4 million Internet users, January 1996 (78% growth)
34.6 million Internet users, July 1996 (31% growth)
According to International Data Corp., by the year 2000, 152
million will have access to WWW/Internet.
It is Also Global
While most research has focused on the estimates for U.S. use, WWW is a
global medium and one should consider its penetration in other countries
outside the U.S. in order to understand its true value as a global
About 73% of Web users come from the U.S., 11% come from Europe and 8%
from Canada and Mexico (GVU User surveys). According to SIMBA
Information Inc., overseas subscribers to online and Internet access
services will more than double to 21 million by the year 2000, including
13 million in Europe and 5 million in Japan.
Issues that have compromized growth outside the U.S. include:
Using the number of hosts to determine the level of use worldwide we can
get a good overview of WWW's penetration globally. This information comes
from Network Wizards. This information is from a 1996 survey, and
thus can't be compared with host numbers from session 1.
- Telephone access is very expensive. Telecom deregulation in 1998 in
Europe will help resolve this issue.
- The Minitel system in France has been very successful, slowing the
move to the Internet.
- Technological infrastructure in third world countries.
The following table illustrates the percentage of PCs that have access to
the Internet in different countries. We can see that in the U.S. 16% of
home PCs access the Internet, but in Japan that number increases to
Total % of PCs that Access WWW
Source: IDC/Link, January, 1997
Your target Audience
It would be foolish to consider the size of the WWW audience as the size
of the potential audience for one company's WWW presence. Much like it
would be foolish for a TV programmer to estimate the size of the target
audience for a typical program to be the entire TV viewing population.
Considering there are approximately half a million web servers (different
computers hosting WWW information) and many web servers will host
information for more than one company, then the potential viewing
population for a particular entity is small.
The average number of sites (according to NNI) that a browser will visit
on a regular basis is between 7 and 15. The most popular web-sites will
get a disproportionate amount of traffic, while the remaining sites will
have to develop a significant niche in order to encourage audiences to
find and return to their site. The most popular sites, and thus the ones
that garner the greatest amount of browser time are (according to PC
It is very important to investigate the demographic profile of the
Internet users, and how that profile may be changing as the Internet
becomes more ubiquitous.
- American Online, 40.1%
- Yahoo!, 38.5%
- Netscape, 38.5%
- WebCrawler, 30.8%
- Microsoft, 20.8%
- Infoseek, 18.1%
- Excite, 17.9%
- Lycos, 16.7%
- Microsoft Network, 15.2%
- GeoCites, 14.6%
According to CyberAtlas consensus data, the average age of Internet
users is 32 (39 for computer users in general), 64% have at least a
college degree (Nielson Media Research), 32% of Internet users are female
(CyberAtlas consensus), medium household income is $60,000 (Nielson)
and 41% of Internet users are married (GVU). Thus the WWW audience is
very attractive to marketers as they have a greater than average household
income, are well educated.
The average household
income is beginning to decline over time and the percentage of
female users is increasing. This is a function of the Internet population
tending toward the norm, and not because early more affluent users
are no longer using the Internet.
The usage patterns of those that access WWW will give marketers better
information on the value of WWW to consumers.
Average weekly WWW usage rates are about 4 hours per browser. According to
IntelliQuest 20% of the WWW population spend 10 + hours per week on
WWW, 21% between 5 and 9 hours, 39% between 2 and 4 hours and 19% 1 hour
According to Nielson Netviews the top five reasons for accessing WWW
Computer products, 41%
Financial Information 26%
According to GVU the top four reasons for being on WWW are:
Shopping, 19% and increasing. The most commonly purchased categories
How do they access the web?
By understanding how consumers access WWW should help identify better
marketing programs. For instance, if the majority of WWW browsers
accessed WWW via American Online (AOL) then it might be prudent to develop
a joint marketing program with AOL such that AOL drives WWW browsers to
Home is the most common place where browsers to access WWW, and AOL boasts
about 8 million subscribers (as the leading commercial access provider).
In fact, 46% of all home Internet users use a commercial online service to
access the Internet. 48% access WWW using an Internet Service Provider
(ISP), according to FIND/SVP, and there is a shift in this
direction. The consequence of this shift may be that users are simply
using AOL and other commercial providers as gateways to the Internet (not
for their proprietary information) thus barebones ISPs are better value.
is the next (behind home) most popular access point, with school third.
Issues Regarding the Growth
Access to WWW is still very limited. This limited access translates into
limited marketing opportunities for companies who want to use WWW as part
of their marketing program. In order to understand the real value of WWW,
we should spend some time considering that which is limiting WWW access
and the prospects for growth in the future.
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- WWW is an eletist medium, due to cost and complexity.
Cost of access limits the size of WWW audience. Because one has to
buy a computer, modem and access in order to use WWW
then those that do not own a computer have to incur a significant cost to
access WWW. WebTV and other similar
TV appliances that allow browsers to access WWW through the TV set will
help broaden the WWW audience. Now one information
appliance allows for both TV viewing and WWW access, a significant
Complexity is another issue. Technophobia plagues all those who
are not comfortable in front of a computer. The perception that WWW is
complex to those that don't access WWW hinders the growth of WWW. TV
viewing is much less complex than WWW browsing, thus WWW
access to the mass population will lag TV access significantly.
As computers (or information appliances like WebTV) become less complex,
then more people will access WWW.
- Speed of information.
The infrastructure that supports the Internet and WWW is finding it
difficult to deal with the current volume of traffic. As the size of WWW
grows (the number of webservers and information on webservers) as
well as the size of the audience of WWW grows, the system becomes over
burdened and in many cases slows to a grinding holt. The instant
gratification that browsers require makes it necessary to develop an
infrastructure that supports the size of the system at speed. As can be
expected in situation of high growth, demand for the system is lagging the development
of the infrastructure behind the system.
Developments like ADSL (a modem working
over existing phone lines that allows multiple use of the phone line), DirecPC (using a satellite system) and
cablemodems (internet through the TV cable) may improve the situation
The situation has become so critical that some research institutions are
moving from the Internet to Internet
2, in order to move information at speed.
They are leaving the Internet for the very same reasons they helped
pioneer the development of the Internet.
Security issues are also slowing the adoption of WWW as a marketing
medium. Although it may have little impact on the number of browsers who
access WWW, it certainly effects what someone wants to do once they are on
WWW. Electronic commerce, while evolving slowly, should become a
significant form of retailing in the future. This will only happen when
security issues are resolved and the perception (from a consumer's stand
point) is that WWW is secure.
- Global issues, as previously addressed.