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America's Key 'Influentials' Are Web Junkies


America's "Influentials" -- a demographic of business networkers, news junkies and community movers and shakers -- prefer the Internet to any other media for acquiring their daily information, according to a new study.

10% influence 90%

The term "influentials" was coined by RoperASW and refers to the 10% of the U.S. population whose robust engagement with society influences the attitudes and behavior of the other 90%.

For the latest "Influentials Online" study, the Washington Post Co.'s WashingtonPost/Newsweek Interactive teamed up with RoperASW to analyze this community-minded population that highly values personal relationships, relies heavily on word of mouth, and tends to perform a wide array of activities online, including banking, arranging travel plans, reading magazines and newspapers and making purchases.

Overall, the findings indicate that these influential individuals now use online publications rather than TV, newspapers or magazines as their key source of daily news and information.

Shifting patterns

The research confirms earlier studies showing that affluent professionals are turning to the Web throughout the workday for a variety of activities including media consumption. One such study, conducted by the Online Publishers Association with Millward Brown IntelliQuest, found that three out of 10 professionals who access the Web at work each day get all of their news online, suggesting that daytime is prime time on the Web and that marketers can't afford to ignore the importance of this audience.

RoperASW's influential demographic numbers about 20 million people and has a median annual household income of $55,000; 80% attended college and 50% graduated from college; one in five has gone to graduate school; and the group as a whole values education.

Major findings

Among the survey's major findings about this group of Influentials:

  • 77% have Internet access, compared to 50% of the general population, according to a 2001 RoperASW study.
  • Six in 10, or 59%, spend at least one hour online each day (excluding e-mail), more than they spend with any other medium, including TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. The average Influential spends two hours online per day.
  • 82% access the Internet multiple times a day and 95% at least once a day.
  • 56% recommend the Internet and 56% recommend newspapers as a means to be reached by advertisers.
  • The Web is the top media used by Influentials to research new places to visit (86%), what to buy (82%) and is second (78%) only to newspapers (83%) for political news and information.
  • 44% describe themselves as people who are asked for advice prior to purchasing various products and services:
    > Government and politics: 79%
    > Computers: 59%
    > Restaurants: 58%
    > Web sites: 58%
    > Career choices: 56%
    > Vacation destinations: 43%
    > Investments: 38%
  • Two-thirds are asked for their opinions or to forward recommendations and information about products and services. The advice is forwarded to an average of five to 20 people.
  • One in three have broadband Internet connections at home, double that of the general population.

'Like breathing air'

"The Internet has become part of the core media to Influentials. It is a fact of life, and for companies that want to engage with Influentials, they have to consider the Internet. ... It's like breathing air," said Jon Berry, vice president and senior research director of RoperASW in New York and co-author of the book The Influentials. (January 2003, Free Press).

Mr. Berry said RoperASW has been tracking these Influentials since the 1970s and documenting changes in the group. One of those changes is the emphasis Americans are placing on the use of technology to pass along ideas and information by word of mouth. And that, Mr. Berry said, means that it's increasingly important to reach Influentials who are at the center of conversations.

"They are twice as likely to be turned to by others for ideas and insights on a range of different topics like movies, vacation places, how to raise your kids, and are twice as likely to make recommendations when they find something they like," Mr. Berry said.

The online survey, administered to nearly 9,000 random visitors to washingtonpost.com from May 21-31, culled 3,206 respondents who, according to RoperASW, can be classified as Influentials.

Posted on aef.com: July 25, 2003

 

Tobi Elkin, AdAge.com. July 22, 2003

Copyright © 2003 Crain Communications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

 

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