Commentary

Study: Young Adults Turn Away From TV

Only 58% of adults younger than 30 say they watch TV almost every day, while 23% of say they watch television only a few times a week. That's according to new research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Among older adults, the numbers are higher. Seventy-two percent of people age 30-49 watch TV almost every day, as do 80% of those 50-64 and 89% of those 65 and older.

These stats make it clear that, while advertisers aiming to reach people older than 29 can still count on television, those trying to reach consumers in the 18-29 bracket need to consider placing ads elsewhere. Which is one reason why the faltering economy might not be completely devastating for online media. Yes, a struggling Yahoo is expected to lay off 1,500 workers this week. Yes, ad networks like AdBrite are shedding staff while others, like JellyCloud, are closing altogether. And, yes, some start-ups are in cost-cutting mode.

But, ultimately, consumers continue to spend time online, and advertisers have no realistic choice other than to follow them.

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Independent of the Pew study, The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the growing number of adults who have stopped paying for cable TV because they can watch any programs they want online. Presidential debates can now be streamed live, shows on cable channels like MTV are available for free streaming, and the best moments from "Saturday Night Live" can be viewed on demand at Hulu.com and NBC.com.

If people had already started canceling their cable subscriptions before the recent economic events, it's easy to imagine that more will do so in a recession. And that means that Internet video, which already commands some of the highest CPMs out there, will grow in popularity. Current predictions are that the market could reach $1 billion by 2010, but that could turn out to be an underestimate if more people than expected stop watching TV.

Additionally, as people spend more time online, search advertising also is likely to continue to grow. Many Web users now view search engines, and not portals, as the gateway to the Web; when those people go online, they start at Google, Yahoo or another company's search engine. Just last week, Google reported that second quarter profit grew 26%, showing that paid search is holding up very well, even as the rest of the economy teeters.

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