WSJ Online Study Reveals Internet Revolution Has Reached The Corner Office

Who says the boss is out of touch? The Wall Street Journal Online's "Boardroom Connections" Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc. on behalf of the Online Journal, shows that nearly all senior-level executives surveyed use the Internet both at work and at home. And not only are they spending 20 percent more time doing so, they're spending less time with every other medium when it comes to reading news online.

"The old image of a senior executive with a dusty typewriter in the corner is no longer...these guys are tech savvy," observes Mike Henry, director of sales for Dow Jones & Co.'s The Wall Street Journal Online.

Of the 404 company chairmen, presidents, CEOs, SVPs, executive directors, and other senior-level execs of Fortune 1000 companies polled, 99 percent use the Internet while at work--up from 96 percent from 2000, when a similar study was conducted for the publisher. At-home usage jumped nearly 10 percent, from 88 percent in 2000 to 97 percent this year. The average age of survey respondents, 90 of whom are male, was 50.

Henry attributes the increase in at-home Web usage to a greater comfort level among the decision-making demographic. In fact, he cites the study finding that participants' self-assessed Internet proficiency has increased 10 percent since 2000.

Time spent by study respondents online jumped 20 percent, from 2000 to 13.4 hours per week. The biggest increase in time spent online, Henry says, was experienced by those 55 and over, the oldest age group studied.

It may come as no surprise that 95 percent of execs read business news online, and nearly all said "that the Web helps them stay better informed about issues related to their businesses," according to the study. The number who said the Internet is their most important news source has almost doubled since 2000--now up to 25 percent. In addition, the percentage of study participants who use the Internet often to read news or content for business went up 21 percent, from 56 percent in 2000 to 68 percent this year.

While newspapers remain the primary news source for senior executives, Henry argues that the role of print news has changed--now, he believes, it is often read for news analysis rather than breaking news, for which more business leaders rely on the Internet. The execs surveyed are spending 12 percent more time reading news online than in 2000, and less time with every other medium. According to the study, 92 percent of participants read general business news sites, and 81 percent visit financial sites.

Perhaps even more significant, survey respondents are using the Web for much more than keeping up on business buzz. The proportion of those who use the Internet for pleasure leaped more than 50 percent, from 30 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2004. Eighty-three percent go online to read news or content for pleasure, and 70 percent do so to research personal finance information.

And although the common perception is that only young people are comfortable using the Web for financial transactions, 64 percent of respondents conduct banking online (up 68 percent from 2004), and 38 percent use the Internet for stock transactions. As for personal online purchases, 83 percent of those studied have bought airline tickets, 82 percent have purchased books, and 78 percent have made hotel reservations.

The study also found that the trend determined in the 2000 report toward using digital communication tools is ongoing. Of those studied, 55 percent use PDAs often or sometimes, 34 percent use wireless mail gadgets often or sometimes, and 39 percent have wireless connections at home. Executives spend 37 percent of their Web time sending and receiving email, and 77 percent have broadband connections at home.

What does it all mean for advertisers? Although some remain hesitant to use the Internet to reach decision-making senior executives, "more and more advertisers have to appreciate that the Internet is a key touchpoint," Henry suggests.

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