Saturday, September 7, 2002

Web usage points to the medium's growth potential

by PETER STEYN, director of Nielsen//NetRatings Media Asia 06-Sep-02

While many advertisers remain reluctant to unlock the potential of the internet to reach their target audiences, I am still encouraged.

Looking at the worldwide growth and usage of the internet, its potential for reaching target audiences online, there's no question in my mind that the internet, although still in its infancy, has already had a profound impact on the daily lives of millions of people.

Just take a look at Hong Kong, which has among the highest internet penetration and usage rates in the world (compared with 30 countries which in total account for more than 95 per cent of the global internet population).

Back in September 2000, Hong Kong had only 3.35 million people with internet access at home. The latest figures released for July 2002, showed that 4.36 million people now have access - a 30 per cent increase. An even higher growth rate is evident when looking at the actual number of people who used the internet during July 2002 versus September 2000 - a 36 per cent increase.

Hong Kong also has among the world's highest broadband penetration, which, combined with the lifestyles of its residents, results in some awesome internet usage figures. Last month, the average time spent online by surfers at home was a whopping 16 hours, compared with just over 10 hours in September 2000. In comparison, the current global average for time spent online per month is slightly less than 10 hours per person. The average number of pages viewed by Hong Kong internet users last month was 1,414 per person, up 54 per cent compared with September 2000.

What is even more revealing is when we look at the online behaviour of the Hong Kong youth. The 12-17 year old internet user spent on average almost 32 hours per person last month, 26 hours among 18-20 year olds, and 22 hours among the 21-24 year old group. Even though I can't say that I have noticed fewer teens at shopping malls over the weekend, the amount of time they spend on the internet must surely be eating into their mall hangout time.

Now, thanks to technology, we can very accurately measure their actual behaviour - where they go online, where they came from, how long they spend at each site, their interaction with the site, and more - unquestionably a wealth of very powerful data not available for traditional media.

Lord Leverhulme was famously quoted complaining that he knew half his advertising was wasted - the only problem was that he didn't know which half. The ease of targeting online audiences and the speed at which accurate data is available to allow marketers to revise their online strategies, helps us to quickly understand exactly which half of our advertising budget is being wasted, long before we have wasted all 50 per cent.

As the internet becomes even more mainstream in Hong Kong, advertisers will have to wake up to this fact.