All the info, please

Failing to look at the whole picture may lead to disastrous strategies

As you plan your Internet strategy for 2001, you may elect to harness some relevant Web research to help you better reach your online eyeballs, tie in your on-air product with your online product, and, it is hoped, make some money for your site as well.

Some leading Internet research firms live to study the habits of Web users. Here are five of their key findings from this year, and, more important than mere statistics, what these numbers should really
mean for your Web site going forward:

Internet subscribers with fast connections spend more on e-commerce than those with slow connections.
Gartner Group says this is true for several reasons:

"Convenience-broadband delivers an 'always on' state to the PC, giving shoppers immediate access; Quicker response time-Internet purchasers will experience less frustration and time spent waiting; user-friendly interfaces for consumers, which require greater bandwidth; and [the fact that] time spent online is greater for broadband users than for analog modem users."

This means that with spreading DSL and cable modem access, you might want to think about a high-bandwidth version of your site to capitalize on the more robust display power for the promotion-related e-commerce in which ventures you are partnering. It may be a bit of a pain to do, but it will pay off.

In the next few years, you will be able to make money from interactive television:
If you are a programmer, or a broadcaster, this money will come from revenue derived from deals made with interactive television "portals" that aggregate content and offers that may stem from your broadcast content. Gartner predicts that TV portals in the United States will generate $4 billion in revenue by 2004. This revenue will come from advertising, subscriptions and commissions on TV-commerce sales. It's not too soon to think about a strategy that will capitalize on interactive TV portals.

Do people watch TV and use the Web at the same time? Not so fast.
How many times have we heard this story? In seeking to validate a cross-platform strategy, some Internet thinkers seize on one nugget of research and distort its importance. I am afraid that is going on here.

Gartner says that at least once a week, 27 million U.S. adults simultaneously surf the Web while watching television.

Let's take a closer look at the numbers. Some vote in viewer polls while watching a live TV show and get "general information" on a product they see on TV, with a few placing an order. The key, though, is that 82% of what Gartner calls "telewebbers" have their TV on as "background noise" while they are using the Web.

While these numbers argue for some synergy, this sort of negates the automatic assumption seemingly held by so many programmers (such as Oxygen Media, which is still struggling to find a successful Web strategy) that all you have to do is put up a Web address on the screen, and the teeming millions will reach across the shoulder to their Internet connection, and then feverishly e-mail the on-air coffee klatsch group, vote in the online poll, or run to buy what is being shown. There is some platform-hopping, but much of it is information-seeking only, and rather incidental.

Online promotions of on-air content can work-but not on a scattershot basis.
Jupiter Research notes that while more than 80% of Web sites deploy online events, guest chats, original online-only content, and branded games, they do so on a "scattershot" basis with little thought-save for the realization that they need to present something.

Jupiter analysts who compiled the report point out that Web sites successful in cross-promotion of "off-line media" (such as television shows) should incentivize Web site visits by promotional contests and giveaways tied to the core off-line product.

Teen boys and girls use the Web differently.
Jupiter says that boys primarily use it for game playing and downloading music files, while girls are strong on e-mail and chat. In an average session, boys also visit more sites-bringing the stereotype of the channel-surfing male with remote in hand, to the online world, too. Not to mention the Venus and Mars
shibboleth, as well.

If you have programs or products predominantly aimed at one teen-market gender, these factors should influence the sites with which you partner and on which buy advertising.

Russell Shaw's column about Internet and interactive issues appears regularly. He can be reached at