‘Net surfers shirk passive consumer rep

Young Netizens not ignoring other mediums, forms of entertainment

First, television was supposed to kill off radio. Then VCRs were supposed to mean the death of the movie house. Now the Internet spells the end all of offline entertainment. Right?

Not so, according to Ekaterina Walsh, an analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. In fact, in her March report “Entertaining Young Net Surfers,” the omnipresence of the Internet among 16- to 22-year-olds serves to drive them back into movie theaters and music stores.

Much like previous faulty predictions that a newer form of entertainment will supersede the status quo, Walsh argues that the consumers of Gen Y will once again prove that people are always willing to add another mode of entertainment to their plate.

In the course of her research, Walsh conducted two online surveys during 1999 that garnered a total of 19,000 respondents in the young-adult range.

Of those who responded, Walsh notes that the vast majority engage in entertainment multitasking. The much decried short attention span of Gen Y has come full circle, where a typical teen almost always engages in at least two activities at once.

“The average wired 16- to 22-year-old spends as much as 61 hours per week on entertainment – up to 55% of their waking hours,” says Walsh. “These ‘fun addicts’ overlay entertainment on nearly everything they do, including other entertainment activities.”

For instance, while surfing the Internet, 71% said they are also listening to the radio. Fifty-eight percent watch TV, 18% read a magazine, while only 12% “do nothing else.”

This kind of immediacy leads to teens actively taking input from one source and using it in another. More than 50% of the respondents in Walsh’s survey said they notice Web site addresses “always” or “very often” in magazine and television advertisements.

How hard is it for someone with a broadband connection to the Internet to type in the URL seconds after seeing it flash at the end of an advertisement on TV? Not difficult at all, judging by the responses to the survey, which is how Walsh comes to the conclusion that the prevalence of the Internet won’t turn the nation into a bunch of desk potatoes.

Seven out of 10 people who responded to the survey said that doing online research directly influenced the CDs they buy, the games they play and what films they see. Between 21%-28% said they buy more CDs, concert tickets, videos, DVDs and computer games since they started going online.

According to Walsh’s study, the recording industry can also rest a little easier about the Web menace. Fifty-seven percent of respondents who download MP3s said they still buy the same number of CDs as they did before the Internet; 23% said they buy less and 20% said they buy more.

The Web appears to be a very effective marketing tool, provided it offers in-depth content that can’t be gleaned from a typical advertisement or movie review. More than half of those who took part in the survey who went to a movie Web site said it encouraged them to see the pic that was being promoted.

Some of the hybrid Web entertainment marketing sites given kudos by Walsh include Dawson’s Desktop, an extension of the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek.” The Web site at http://www.dawsonsdesktop.com continues the storyline between each episode, including entries in Dawson’s diary and a faux instant-message function that makes the viewer a third-party observer to chats between Dawson and other characters on the show.

There is also a bit of prophecy in the analysis in that Walsh encourages New Line Cinema to harness the numerous independent fan sites created for “The Lord of the Rings” to create a form of viral marketing for news about the upcoming trilogy.

New Line execs did reach out to these fan pages, resulting in the Internet exclusive “Lord of the Rings” preview being downloaded 1.7 million times in the first 24 hours that it was on the Web.

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