Category Archives: Pew

TVs and microwaves: Consumers no longer need you

A new Pew study has gotten some buzz over the fact that consumers now view microwaves as more a necessity than television sets. The scary finding for marketers, though, is that most categories of household goods saw a 20-point decline in perception in the past three years as consumers began tightening their belts. You can almost hear the sales of big flat panels screeching to a halt. Marketers of all stripes need to rethink their messaging — because what people needed yesterday is now just a luxurious add-on.

Via Brandflakes.

39% of adults addicted to mobile. 7% not happy about it.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with your cell phone? Join the club. Pew reported yesterday that 39% of U.S. adults are now heavy users of mobile devices to access the internet. Pew lists several typologies:

– 9% of adults are Roving Nodes, using mobile to connect and share with others
– 8% are Digital Collaborators, using mobile to share creativity
– 8% are Mobile Newbies, just figuring out how to connect online…

The list goes on, but one group stands out: Ambivalent Networkers. This group represents 1 in 5 of heavy users of mobile internet — the people who text on phones most often — and they aren’t happy. Pew reports this group feels overwhelmed with the need to stay connected, out of fear they may miss something, and are growing frustrated with the constant variations of social media options to communicate.

We’ve noted recently that the typical savvy mobile-web consumer now has at least 12 standard ways to listen to others: email, Gmail, chat, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, blog comments, RSS feeds, desk phone, cell phone, text messages. Within each tool, subtools are allowing new controls — such as the free TweetDeck software which divides Twitter streams into groups of friends — but each new subtool adds yet more complexity.

Is a backlash growing? Will consumers eventually demand streamlined interfaces to control online connections? Don’t ask us. We’re still adding new icons to our iPhone.

Photo: Scifr

Pew: Teens much less likely to shop online

Yo, kids, don’t you like

Dirk Singer points us to a recent Pew report evaluating differences in internet use by age. Many of the findings are obvious — teens like games and blogging, seniors are increasing their time on the internet — but one leaped out. Only 38% of online teens said they shop online, compared with 71% of young adults 18-32 and 80% of Gen Xers age 33-44.

Some of this may be driven by finances; teens don’t make much money. But you would think teens — with their constant online connections and the marketers rabidly chasing them — would spend what money they have via online purchases. It could be that youth have a focused modality on creating and sharing content in social media, and so all those hours spent on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs reduce the time teens spend shopping. Or, alternatively, young people use online access to gather information but prefer to make actual purchases at the mall.

(Or it could simply be teens don’t have access to credit cards, usually required for online purchases. If so we smell a huge marketing opportunity here for a credit card firm that can provide some entry credit tool for young people with parental controls. No, wait. BAD idea.)

Since people take their media habits with them as they age, ecommerce players and online advertisers should watch this new modality. It also points out the need to match offline results with online impressions; the last click on a web site is not the only indication of a sale.

Photo: turtlemom4bacon

Social networks: Not just for kids anymore

Pew released its latest report on social media yesterday, with the headline that more U.S. adults than teens now use chatty services such as Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace. As a percentage of each demo, teens are still more likely to socialize online; but in terms of sheer numbers adult use has skyrocketed from only 8% of those with online access using social media in February 2005 to 35% today.

The Pew survey unlocks a few surprises. Social media use is concentrated in urban areas (34% of online users) vs. rural (23%); no surprise there. But whites (31%) are less likely to use online social media than African-Americans (43%) and Hispanics (48%). And perhaps most surprising, while 17% of teens said they use social media to flirt online, 20% of adults do the same. Since adults tend to be married and teens do not, it means you grownups out there are being very, very naughty.

Pew’s internet future squeezes advertisers

No surprises, but Pew’s latest paper The Future of the Internet III points out the 4 billion cell phones that now exist worldwide will soon replace computers as the gateway to the internet. Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay, tells Mediapost “by 2020 we’ll have standard network connections around the world … billions of people will have joined the internet who don’t speak English. They won’t think of these things as ‘phones’ either — these devices will be simply lenses on the online world.”

All of which gives advertisers a challenge. The screen sizes on phones are smaller than PCs, reducing advertising inventory by 90% or more — putting the same pressure on web publishers that they recently put on newspapers. The adage “why buy advertising for dollars in newsprint when you can buy it for pennies on the web” may turn into microcents on mobile phones, as consumers chat with scant side space for marketers.

See our complete thoughts on the future mobile advertising challenge in BusinessWeek.

Pew study says people use internet to find things

A bit of a no brainer … until you think of all the organizations building new web sites with no search campaign to pull traffic there.

Pew reports that consumer use of search engines is up from one-third of users on a typical day in 2002 to nearly half of consumers using search each day in 2008. Search engines have become the portals into the internet and are fast approaching email use, the current “top app” for online communications.

Do you have a web site? Check. Do you have a search engine marketing initiative to get customers to your web site?

Ms. Goodstein, alas, the days of content rules for kids are over

Anastasia Goodstein writes a thoughtful, provoking column in BusinessWeek calling for new rules on the digital media now reaching children. We read it after returning from a trip to Borders with our kids … where they had leapt at every digital screen, dialed numbers from our cell phone, and upon returning home jumped onto the internet.

Watching our boys click around the Matrix, we realized: It’s too late. The digital genie is out of the bottle. Today’s media world simply cannot go back to the 1990 Children’s Television Act, or create a new digital equivalent of web site rules and regulations, because media has left the building. You see, children are now creating their own content universe.

The Pew Internet project recently noted that 64% of online teenagers ages 12-17 do some form of content creation online. More than one-third of all teen girls blog, and about 1 in 5 teen boys have posted a video online where someone else can find it. The fragmentation of the media has changed into a chorus of creation, and the use of these creation tools is trending into younger and younger demos. What are 10-year-olds texting each other? We don’t know, but you better believe the pre-teen and teen content, photos and video probably wouldn’t pass the S&P guidelines for prime-time television.

We applaud Goodstein’s ideals, and certainly any parent might find media trends disturbing. Back in 1983, the pool of advertising targeting tots was estimated at $100 million; today, marketers spend more than $15 billion annually on children’s pitches. Goodstein notes studies have shown children under age 8 can’t differentiate truth from fiction in a TV spot, a report confirmed when our 7-year-old told us one night, “Daddy, do you know there is a butterfly that helps people sleep?” (See: Lunesta.)

The best idea Goodstein has — one that we truly like — is for industry and media to adopt standard labels for what’s in the digital content (is it rated R?) and to note when the content is sponsored (did an advertiser pay for this web game?). This would empower parents to filter content arriving over digital nets. But even that is becoming impossible in this new world of media creation.

A friend asked us recently what we thought the world would be like in 30 years, when his daughter grows into an adult. We thought: The internet is everywhere. Everything is plugged in. Information is free. Every device has a nimbus of information. We know the location of everything. And one-to-one personalization and one-to-many networking reach the ultimate nirvana, where any individual can share with the world and the world can target that individual back.

In such a world, the individual will be in control, not the marketers, and if the individual wants to screen a message, that will have to be the individual’s responsibility. The days of media broadcasters acting as parents are over … and perhaps real parents will have to step up instead.

2008: The digital divide lives on, harming poor and elderly

Buried in the latest Pew Internet report is a sad series of statistics on low- vs. high-access Internet users. About 36% of U.S. adults in the United States have no access to the web or just dial-up access, and this group tends to be more at risk for needing information to solve serious problems. 55% of those with low access to the Internet earn less than $40,000 a year (vs. 24% of Americans with high access); 39% are age 63 or older (vs. 9% with high access).

What does this mean? The Internet is a vital tool for finding resources and answering problems. But the people most at risk for social or health ills — the elderly, the frail, those with low incomes — have the least ability to find help. When it comes to serious illness, tax matters, or planning how to start a business, the poor and elderly remain at a serious disadvantage in the U.S.

The silver lining for marketers: The report reinforces that young, high-income, high-spenders are more likely to be online.

Mayo’s new web site focuses on search, not docs

We admire the courage it must have taken in board meetings for someone at Mayo Clinic’s marketing group to push through a web design that didn’t muck up the home page with millions of pieces of arcane jargon from each medical service line. The products are missing from this home page; you don’t see the words oncology, bariatrics, radiology, orthopedics, or cardio anywhere. Why? Because in the real world, patients don’t talk like that. Patients just want to find a doctor or a cure.

The brilliance of this new site design is that Mayo has streamlined the information down to three points of entry: find a disease, find a location, or request an appointment. Push is gone (newsletter whacked), and pull is in. Someone at Mayo must have read Pew’s research pointing out that 113 million Americans search for health-care information online.

Let’s look more closely at how Mayo helps users search. Compare the clarity of the alphabetical search menu for disease information, above, with the prior site from back in January 2007:

Mayo removed extraneous elements to make search easier. The newsletter is now gone, and Mayo also removed those crowing, all-about-us PR statements such as Top 100 logos. (Memo to regional hospital execs: Most patients don’t know there are more than 100 hospitals in the entire nation.) Mayo still runs two web sites, and, a curious dual front-page approach given that 66% of internet health searchers begin typing at a search engine and are then thrown deep into the bowels of a web site anyway. Most users of Mayo content will never see either home page.

No matter. We admire Mayo for the courage to remove technical terms and make search simple. It’s the equivalent of removing a crowd of shouting physicians from the hospital lobby to help patients get through the front door.

Saturday night, teens are rocking — and it ain’t to radio

The Pew Internet & American Life Project points to a stormy future for broadcast ratings, buried in a new report on how American families use the Internet. Pew surveyed 935 teens and their parents to ask questions such as whether parents monitor Internet content (yes) and do parents think the Internet has been a bad influence on kids (surprisingly, parents are ambivalent).

The bad news for broadcasters came on a little chart on page 3, titled “Gadget Ownership within Households.” Teens and their parents tend to have the same number of gadgets, probably since discretionary income and interest in technology may be common under one roof. But parents and teens have different types of gadgets. All have heavy penetration of PCs and laptops, but parents tend to use cell phones more, while 51% of youths age 12 to 17 now have an MP3 player.

51% — more than half — of teens have iPod equivalents! Let’s pause and digest that. (A) That’s twice the rate as parents, suggesting the gadget interest is a major shift from the older generation to the younger. (B) Add it up with the other devices that teens use — 72% own a desktop computer, 63% own a cell phone, 25% a laptop, and 8% a PDA — and you see a world where today’s youth are immersed in media devices that are not TV or radio. (C) 88% of teens in total say they use this technology to “make my life easier,” and this list does not include TV or radio.

You can see where this is going. These kids will grow up, and as they take today’s media habits with them, ad dollars will be shifted out of broadcast (whose ratings are falling) and into mobile media (the future for the Millennial Generation). We’ve seen a similar shift in video games in the past two decades. Back in 1990, the average age of a video gamer was 18 — and today, 17 years later, that average age has increased 15 years to 33. The adults now trading Linden Dollars on Second Life started out playing The Hunt for Red October when George Sr. was in office.

Unfortunately for radio, today’s teens have found new devices to get their kicks, and those include Wi-Fi internet and MP3 downloads, not airwaves. Advertisers are going to chase this market as tomorrow’s adults change the dial.