Where People Are Spending Their Time

The average online consumer in the United States is now spending as much time on the Internet as he or she does watching TV offline. This is according to Forrester Research's annual study "Understanding the Changing Needs of the US Online Consumer."

If this information, released last month, is indeed correct, it's a notable milestone. But is it true?

There are skeptics. In a blog post, Andrew Wallenstein, senior editor at and a media commentator for NPR, questioned whether the report was accurate given that it relies on subjective self-reported data from consumers as opposed to the objective metered measurement provided by companies like Nielsen and comScore.

The likes of Glenn Enoch, vice president/integrated media research at ESPN and comScore executive chairman and co-founder Gian Fulgoni, have also taken issue with Forrester's research.

You have to acknowledge that Enoch and Fulgoni just might be biased.

Come to think of it, I should acknowledge that I might be biased - I once worked with Wallenstein at an Internet start-up and I was impressed when I realized he took a critical look at Forrester Research's report as opposed to simply sharing the results.

Jacqueline Anderson, the head researcher on the Forrester report, defends the report, telling Wallenstein there is value in self-reported data in that it distills the perception of what consumers believe is the reality of their consumption habit.

So is this report accurate? This debate could go on forever.

One thing is certain about research into media consumption: there is no certainty. While self-reported information from studies like Forrester's is always called into question because we don't always remember things the way they happened, the accuracy of the metered data we get from Nielsen and comScore has also been debated - the companies have been known to provide wildly different results when metering the same activity.

Arguments aside, here are some findings from Forrester's research based on the responses of 30,064 people surveyed last January and February.

Boomers Are Spending Big Online: Generation X is fueling ecommerce adoption, with 68 percent of them shopping online. Fewer Boomers are shopping online, but they are outspending Gen X by more than $4.5 billion a year.

Blogging Is So 1999: Social networking has mass appeal. As for blogging, listening to streaming audio and IMing, only one-third of the online population in the United States is pursuing these activities.

Media Is Migrating - Slowly But Surely - To Mobile: Only eight percent of consumers with online-enabled mobile devices are using them to watch video and TV, but that number is double what it was in 2008.

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