Affluent Americans are the fastest-growing income group online, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, which measures and analyzes Internet audiences. Web surfers with total household incomes of $150K and higher grew 31 percent year-over-year at home to nearly 7.9 million individuals.


Web users earning between $75K-$100K increased to 26.4 million in March, compared with 20.7 million a year ago. Those with upper incomes ranging from $100K-$150K rose 24 percent since last March.


Internet users earning upper-level incomes have a higher concentration of broadband adopters. Broadband surfers made up 69 percent of the total audience for those with incomes of $150K or more, compared with 31 percent accessing via dial-up. Those earning between $100K-$150K showed a 61/39 percent split favoring high speed, while Internet users with incomes between $75K-$100K showed an even split between narrowband and broadband users.


“Cost plays a tremendous part in Internet access patterns,” Kenneth Cassar, Nielsen/NetRatings’ director of strategic analysis. “While broadband has become much less expensive over the past few years, it’s still a significant cost as compared to narrowband.”


Nielsen/NetRatings also reported its March data for top Internet sites by parent company and top brands. The top five sites in order were Microsoft with 112 million unique users, Time Warner with 99 million, Yahoo! with 98 million, Google with 66 million and eBay with 59 million unique users.


The top five Web sites by brand were MSN with 97 million unique users, Yahoo! with 96 million, Microsoft with 94 million, AOL with 73 million and Google with 65 million unique users.


The top 10 advertisers by company for March were Netflix, AT&T Wireless, InterActiveCorp., Dell Computer, Classmates Online,, SBC Communications, Fun Web Products, Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Scottrade. Top advertisers, ranked by the number of times an ad is viewed, are based on data from AdRelevance, Nielsen/NetRatings’ advertising research service.


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