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Study: Net use eclipsing TV

Web users are now spending as much time on the Internet as they are watching television--if not more, a new study says.

Web users are now spending as much time on the Internet as they are watching television--if not more, a new study says.

WebCensus, a survey conducted by investment firm Hambrecht & Quist and Web advertisement network LinkExchange, broke down the time Web users dedicate to various media during the course of a day. Results showed that 31 percent of the time was spent on the Internet, compared to 29 percent devoted to watching television. Further breakdown found radio taking up 24 percent of the time, and print media such as newspapers and magazines pulling up the rear with 16 percent.

According to Hambrecht & Quist analyst Daniel Rimer, the figures underscore a narrowing chasm between television and the Internet--media whose technologies continue to converge.

"Junkies of Internet are junkies of media in general, especially television," said Rimer. "TV users are typically more likely to use the Internet in very large amounts. We believe there is a correlation between heavy TV users and heavy Internet users. As the Internet matures and more bandwidth becomes available, the correlation will increase, because the experience on the Internet will not only more additive to television, but it will also be a more immersive."

The study also found that 58 percent of those surveyed use the Internet in addition to traditional media. According to Adam Schoenfeld, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, the figure reflects the growing phenomenon of simultaneous media usage between the Internet and television, which may open up a lot of opportunities for cross-media promotion.

Schoenfeld places particular significance on marquee sporting events as one of the first examples of simultaneous usage. Jupiter studies have shown that during these sporting events, 50 percent surveyed said they had visited a sports Web site when the program mentioned a URL during the broadcast. Moreover, during the events, 33 percent of online users had an interest in accessing Web content while simultaneously watching sports on television.

But while these figures may paint a rosy portrait of the Internet and television, the study nonetheless showed signs of defection to the Internet. When WebCensus asked which media Internet users sacrificed for the Web, 22 percent spent less time watching television; 12 percent spent less time reading newspapers and magazines; and 3 percent sacrificed radio time.

"People are changing the channel. Not to a new TV channel, but changing to the Internet as a new channel to communicate," said Kate Delhagen, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Simultaneous usage aside, Schoenfeld also agreed. "It's indisputable that the Web is siphoning usage form traditional media," he said. "No media company can ignore the Web if they want to keep their slice of the pie."

Evidence of traditional media expanding their online presence continues to grow. Today, for example, NBC announced it would be partnering with Net company Launch Media to create a cobranded music site on NBC.com, featuring multimedia content and e-commerce. NBC also took a minority stake in Launch. (See related story)

Additional results from the survey also provided a demographic look at Web users. Of the 100,000 Netizens that participated in the study, 40 percent were female, which the study considered a more balanced distribution. The average participant was 30 years old, college educated, and had a yearly income of $50,000.

WebCensus, which was advertised throughout the LinkExchange network, offered a voluntary questionnaire over a two-month period earlier this year. It polled roughly 100,000 Netizens.