The Rich Get Rich Media: Nielsen Finds Affluent Homes Spend More Time, Money Online

Internet users with household incomes over $150,000 grew by nearly 20 percent between January 2004 and this January, Nielsen//NetRatings reported yesterday. Reaching 10.3 million last month, this group not only spends the most amount of time online--76 hours per month-compared to other income segments, but consumes more Web pages--2,126 pages--than any other group.

Where are they spending their time online? Travel, financial, and entertainment sites, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. The top Web sites capturing the largest percentage of men in this income group were Fidelity Investments, Sabre Travel Network, CBS MarketWatch, United Airlines, and American Airlines. The top Web sites drawing the highest percentage of high-income women were AOL Travel, Moviefone, AOL Living, Expedia, and AOL Entertainment.

"The rise in the number of high-income Web surfers, combined with their propensity to spend the most amount of time surfing and consuming Web pages as compared to everyone else, represents a solid opportunity for marketers," said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, in a statement. "Advertisers would do well to turn to the sites they surf to most efficiently reach this high-income group."

Nielsen//NetRatings found that men and women living in high-income households shared similarities in their preferences for travel sites. In terms of differences, men visited more financial sites, while women were drawn more to entertainment sites.

But other experts expressed doubts over the accuracy of Nielsen//NetRatings' findings. "Nielsen's numbers seem extremely aggressive," Vikram Sehgal, analyst at JupiterResearch, said. "Income levels have traditionally correlated with online access, but the divide is increasingly modest."

comScore Networks spokesman Graham Mudd considered Nielsen's numbers equally incongruous. "The high-income group was the first to enter the market, so it doesn't stand to reason that they should continue to lead by such a large margin," adding, "their year-over-year growth is more likely to be in the high single digits."