University Audience Skews Toward Communication

Marketers are well aware of the demographics of current online big spenders. Their baby-boomer age bracket, well-above average household income, high education level and other specifics are well reported on. But there is another group that is often overlooked by both online researchers and subsequently some marketers - a group that will be spending a whole lot of money online in the very near future. The U.S. university Internet audience is both sizable and influential -- where are nearly 10 million active users in March 2003, according to comScore Media Metrix, which continuously measures this population, through a panel of 35,000 Internet users.

A category analysis of this audience reveals the extreme degree to which entertainment and communication-oriented sites are visited by university visitors relative to their proportion in the total Internet. Aside from the Education category, which is composed primarily of university websites, the Instant Messenger category has the highest proportion of university visitors (9.3%). University visitors are also highly over-represented at Entertainment websites, including Movies and Music (8.6 and 8.4% shares).

Whether communicating with fellow students across the dormitory hall or friends and family at home, Instant Messengers are hugely popular among university students. In fact, the Instant Messenger category reached nearly 7 million university Internet users - 70% of the total university Internet population in March (compared to 47 and 42% for home and work locations). For advertisers and agencies deciding whether to invest in campaigns delivered via instant messaging systems, the university audience clearly represents a ready base of target consumers.

An analysis of specific Instant Messenger services reveals that while all Instant Messengers are disproportionately popular among university Internet users, AOL Time Warner Instant Messaging (which includes both the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and subscriber-based applications and Web sites) leads in adoption among university Internet users. In fact, AOL Time Warner Instant Messaging alone reaches 61% of the university Internet population. And while Trillian, which allows users to communicate across all major instant messenger platforms, is used by only 1.3% of this audience, university users account for more than 12% of the total Trillian user base (compared to 7% for the total Internet).

comScore data also found that the E-Mail category, which includes Web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, is highly attractive to college students, reaching fully 80% of all university Internet users (compared to 67 and 70% for home and work users). Interestingly, the data also revealed that University users may not be loyal to any one Web-based e-mail site and have accounts with multiple providers: approximately 50% of those who visited Yahoo! Mail also visited MSN Hotmail in March, and 44% of Hotmail visitors also visited Yahoo! Mail.

An analysis of the Entertainment-Music category reveals distinct preferences among university users when compared to home users. While WindowsMedia is the clear leader in the Music category among both home and university users, MTV sites are ranked second among university users, but fourth among home users. Conversely, AOL Proprietary Music is the second most popular music property among home users, but ranks fourth among university users.

The analysis also found significant differences in the amount of time university and home visitor spent at the Music category. The average university visitor spent 41 minutes at the Music category in March - 66% more time than the average home visitor (25 minutes). Notably, the average university user spent nearly three times more time at than home users, further evidence of college students' penchant for online music.

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