Commentary

Prepare For Possible Decline In Internet Usage In 2009-2010

Recently I read an interesting study that suggested U.S. Internet usage is going to start a sharp decline over the next two to three years, as a result primarily of the economic downturn and some additional factors. All of which does not bode well for digitally based businesses or internet advertisers.

Consideration 1: Cost-Cutting

The first support point was simple: that with average Americans facing increased financial pressures, they are looking to cut costs -- and for the majority, the Internet is just not a necessity! For the average American covered in the study, issued by Hudson University on March 15, television and print, especially newspapers, are the primary sources for news and information. The Internet, though very ubiquitous and a "nice-to-have," is just not a primary media outlet for these users.

The data goes on to suggest that the mobile Web, though also an un-arguable convenience for most consumers, is not a necessity, and many average Americans are trimming their data plans along with their Internet access at home as they look to scrimp and save as a result of the downturn.

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At a time when the unemployment rate is skyrocketing, many Americans are resorting to newspaper classifieds and their local YMCA for leads, rather than spending their hard-earned money on Internet access. Funnily enough, cable is not being affected by these cost-saving measures.

Consideration 2: Decreased Performance

The second point that supports this potential decline is that most Web users, according to this same study, are unhappy with page-load times and server errors. Data suggests that more than 76% of new Internet users are fed up with the poor experience offered by the Web, which may or may not be caused by the hardware they use to surf the Web -- or maybe a lack of savvy on their parts. Still, they are blaming the Web itself and they are not coming back.

In the same study, more than 16% of "active Internet users" found the same issues and were dramatically reducing their time spent and the number of sites they visit. One study quote: "While I enjoy surfing the Interwebs, I don't like waiting for it. I want it now, and I am sick and tired of that 404-message thing that keeps popping up."

These users were also more likely to submit their names, Social Security numbers and bank account information to the recently expanded Canadian and Irish lotteries. Most of these same users are still wondering when they will get their winnings.

Consideration 3: Unfamiliarity

The third, and possibly the most surprising reason, for the potential decline in U.S. Internet usage is that too many average Americans consider the Web to be "too darned techy."

In the same survey, a significant portion of Web users sampled agreed with the statement that the Web was "filled with stuff I ain't ever heard of."

According to the study, which goes into granular detail, most Web users were able to come to terms with companies named "Yahoo," and they were all a fan of the now-defunct "Excite," which apparently got them excited -- but they are simply confused by names such as "Digg" and "Google."

Also overheard in the study: consumers felt that a "Facebook" should actually have a book, and they cannot understand why they can't locate this book at the library. The solution here, according to the study, is to get back to basics. The Web needs to focus on simple names that are based on acronyms that do not require us to decode their meaning, but can simply be taken at face value. For example, most Americans do not know what NBC or CBS stand for, but they know what's on channel 6 and channel 10 at 8 p.m.

I know that reading this study may be disheartening to many of you, but know that today is April Fool's Day. Too many times of late I've found myself reading about the decline in the economy and other problems, so hopefully this column made you smile just a little bit. Next week it will be back to the thought-provoking topics you expect, but for today just take a minute and smile because things aren't all that bad -- especially with the Interwebs business.

Happy April Fool's.

20 comments about "Prepare For Possible Decline In Internet Usage In 2009-2010".
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  1. Sarah Zielie, April 1, 2009 at 10:43 a.m.

    As an article skimmer I'm really glad I got to the end of this one :)

  2. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC, April 1, 2009 at 10:54 a.m.

    Ha ha... that was good. I was fuming through the first couple paragraphs and thought you had truly gone insane... Pays to read to the end.

  3. Denise Brown from Tad Publishing & Consulting Co., April 1, 2009 at 10:57 a.m.

    I almost tweeted until I read: "too many average Americans consider the Web to be "too darned techy." Thank you--I've enjoyed yours the most today.

  4. John Whitmore from BIZO, April 1, 2009 at 11:01 a.m.

    Thanks Cory for the humor today!

  5. Greg Maibach from Advance Internet, April 1, 2009 at 11:15 a.m.

    good one, cory.

  6. Terence Chan from MediaBlog.com, April 1, 2009 at 11:20 a.m.

    LOL nice one Corry

  7. Jeff Hurt from NADP, April 1, 2009 at 11:31 a.m.

    Good one. I was reading along thinking, "For real? No Way." Then got to the end. You got me!

  8. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 1, 2009 at 11:35 a.m.

    At first, I thought I was seeing things that weren't there. Then I realized how frequently I have actually heard those quotes quite recently. Meanwhile, I'll look for your facebook in the library.

  9. Colleen Wright from Search Engine Academy Northwest, April 1, 2009 at 11:36 a.m.

    Dang! I'm thinking what? No way! I've read too many studies saying just the opposite. I forgot what day it was...

  10. Dean Jutilla, April 1, 2009 at 12:02 p.m.

    Nice one, Cory. I'd write more but gotta go...my mother's on the other line asking for my help setting up "a Facebook" for her. :-)

  11. Donna Zelzer from Midwifery Today, April 1, 2009 at 12:48 p.m.

    Good one!

    When I read the title, I thought "This has to be an April Fool's joke" (I'd been caught once already today, on another site), but then the first couple paragraphs made so much sense, i started to wonder......

  12. Andrew Eklund from Ciceron, April 1, 2009 at 12:51 p.m.

    I GUARANTEE some agency somewhere will use this to defend a big traditional media spend, having not "made it to the end." I can't wait to see it.

  13. Cory Treffiletti from FIS, April 1, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.

    I'm glad everyone read to the end (phew). And in case anyone didn't catch the reference, Hudson University is a fictional college featured quite often on Law & Order :-)

  14. Kevin Dwinnell from Brand Thunder, April 1, 2009 at 2:52 p.m.

    Call me Fish. Took it hook, line and sinker. First two sections sounded too real (and I mentally crafted my rebuttal) then scanned to the bottom. Zing!

  15. Danielle Brill from Hearst Television, April 1, 2009 at 3:33 p.m.

    Wow...I needed that! My heart sank reading the title and just sank deeper until Consideration #3, point 2. That's when I realized what day it is. Then I skimmed down and felt such relief! Thanks for a bit of "fun" on a Wednesday. Funny how I didn't pick up on the Hudson reference since I watched an SVU last night set at that exact "university".

  16. Chuck Dorris from eDining, llc, April 1, 2009 at 4:05 p.m.

    You totally got me.... but at least i waited till the end of the article, thinking .. OMG something @#@$# NEW to find out about ... Must I NOW google "interweb".

    Hmm who owns THAT URL?

    I LOL'ed so hard I woke the cat up, who left to find a quieter place to sleep than the pile of old mousepads!

  17. Andy Atherton from brand.net, April 1, 2009 at 5:50 p.m.

    good stuff cory. funny. :)

  18. Cory Treffiletti from FIS, April 1, 2009 at 8:33 p.m.

    what's really funny os that someone actually responded and didn't realize this was a joke :-)

  19. Linda Lopez from Independent, April 2, 2009 at 3:53 p.m.

    It's April 2 and I'm a little late reading my mail. I have to confess, you had me going for a minute. There are still people out there like that! Great gag *still laughing*

  20. Tilly Pick from Development Practice 360, LLC., April 2, 2009 at 9:11 p.m.

    I read it, was stumped and then laughed. Then I paused. What gave me pause is the amount of value that is being created on the web. With the economy doing what it's doing, things that don't create value will be peeled back. They will. Youtube is kind enough to host samples of my work -- for free. Will that continue? Or, will people continue to litter on twitter as uncontrollably as is the case right now? In a strange kind of way you hit on a dymanic, perhaps something akin to "right-sizing the web" rather than just continuing to overindulge. Just a thought.

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