NEW YORK The heady days of steep upticks in Internet use appear to be over.
Forrester Research found only a small increase in the number of people using the Internet after years of steady growth in the online sector. According to its survey of nearly 38,000 users, the number of households with Internet access grew 3 percent year over year. Even broadband expansion has slowed to 6 percent. Both figures in previous years topped 10 percent in Forrester's consumer poll.
The report found that media habits are now steadying. Time spent online, often cited as a key metric in making the medium's case for more ad dollars, remained virtually unchanged at 12 hours year over year, following steep growth from 2004 to 2007.
Forrester said the figures represent the "maturation of users, as well as the ultimately limited amount of time consumers have to spend with media."
That means TV is far from dead. Even those who have watched a television show online still spend 13 hours a week in front of a TV set, per Forrester. In fact, over the past five years, the amount of time people spent watching TV has remained unchanged. In that same period, Internet use has more than doubled, although it is still less than TV. That extra time online has come at the expense of other traditional media: radio has declined 18 percent, newspapers by 17 percent and magazines by 6 percent.
Forrester found that consumers are engaging in a wider array of activities online. Social networking remains a standout growth category, with use of social nets growing from less than 15 percent in 2007 to over 30 percent in 2009. Facebook was named the most popular destination, with 68 percent of social network users, followed by MySpace with 59 percent.
Intriguingly, Forrester found consumer ardor for blogs cooling. Slightly less than 20 percent reported reading blogs, the same figure as last year.