The Internet is steadily gaining market share of the 18- to 54-year-old media consumer looking for news and information, according to the Online Publishers Association‘s Generational Media Study.

The study, conducted by Frank N. Magid Associates, examines how the Internet, television, radio, newspapers and magazines compare across the generations on a range of attitudinal measures.

The study asked respondents to compare qualitative aspects of consuming content online versus offline. Online media rate highly in head-to-head comparisons with offline media across all age groups. For example, 97 percent believe online is the same or better than magazines for finding information about products and music. In addition, 83 percent say reading a story on the Internet is the same or better than reading one in a newspaper, and 67 percent say that watching a short video clip online is the same or better than watching highlights on television. Longer-format videos compare less favorably online, with 63 percent sill believing that television is better for watching longer video programming.

“Consumers continue to move beyond purely functional uses of the Internet into more media-oriented activities, such as reading stories, looking at photos, and watching video,” said Michael Zimbalist, president of the Online Publishers Association. “These results show how receptive people of all ages are to the Internet as a medium and not just a tool.”

The study also found that the Internet and television are the top two media choices among 18- to 54-year-olds, with 45.6 percent of respondents citing the Internet as their top pick, followed by 34.6 percent who choose television. The next closest medium is books at 7.5 percent, followed by radio (3.2 percent), newspapers (3.2 percent), videos/DVDs (2.8 percent) video/computer games (2.1 percent) and magazines (.9 percent).

The Internet is more likely to be the top media choice for 18-24 year-olds, with 50.5 percent choosing the Internet, compared to 28.5 percent who chose television.

Among all respondents, the Internet and television are by far the most frequently used media. Forty-one percent and 52 percent report using the Internet (exclusive of e-mail, IM and chat) and television, respectively, between two and five hours per day during the week. Nineteen percent report using the Internet more than five hours per day during the week, while 15 percent report watching more than five hours of television per day.

Notably, the Internet is the only medium with net growth in perceived time spent. Forty-seven percent of respondents indicate that they spend more time using the Internet now compared to one year ago. Interestingly, 35 percent of respondents indicate that they spend less time playing video/PC games and 28 percent say they spend less time watching television.

Not surprisingly, the Internet is used more for informational purposes, while television is used more for entertainment and relaxation.

Seventy-three percent of respondents say the Internet is an important part of their day and helps them keep up with topics they are interested in, while 65 percent say it provides them with useful information about products and services. Eighty-six percent say they watch television for entertainment, with 65 percent indicating that it is an important way for them to relax.

There are no significant differences between age groups in their attitudes toward the Internet, television and magazines. However, the importance of newspapers differs significantly by age group, with 38 percent of 35- to 54-year-old newspaper readers indicating that reading the newspaper is an important part of their day, compared to only 17 percent of 18- to 24-year-old readers.

Attitudes toward newspapers are generally most favorable among the 35- to 54-year-old demographic with one notable exception – trust. Fifty percent of 18- to 24-year-old newspaper readers say they trust the news they get in newspapers, compared to only 35 percent of 35- to 54-year-old readers.

Interestingly, 45 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds indicate that they would turn to the Internet first for national news (vs. 29 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds), while 58 percent would turn to the Internet first for weather (vs. 49 percent) and 51 percent for sports (vs. 41 percent).

The OPA’s Generational Media Study is a national online survey of 1,235 respondents. The sample consisted of a nationally representative gender distribution within three age groups: 18- to 24-year-olds, 25- to 34-year-olds and 35- to 54-year-olds. The survey was conducted through Frank N. Magid Associates’ online division, www.surveysonline.com.

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