Dot-Com Decline Didn’t Curb Online Usage

NEW YORK — Despite the growing junk pile of failed dot-com companies, Internet usage has held steady, a survey found.
More than half of the Internet users surveyed said they were online the same amount of time as they were six months ago, while 29% used the Internet more and 17% used it less, according to the survey released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

In addition, spending less time online didn’t necessarily mean users thought less of the Internet. Some users said they had become proficient or installed faster connections, resulting in needing less time to get the information they wanted.

Of the users who reported spending more time online, most said they need it more for school or work, had found more things to do online or have better access to the Internet or a computer. Those who were online less often said they aren’t as interested in the things they used to do or are facing a time crunch.

The survey also found that only 8% of the users have seen one of their favorite sites go out of business. Of that group, only one-fifth are spending less time online. “They are able to find other things online to substitute for what they lost,” said Lee Rainie, the project’s director.

The study was based on a telephone survey Feb. 1 to March 1 of 2,096 adults, of whom 1,198 were Internet users. The margin of sampling error for the Internet-only group was plus or minus three percentage points.

In May, Telecommunications Reports International found a slight drop in home online subscribers for the first time since the research group began tallying subscriber levels 21 years ago. And late last year, Nielsen/NetRatings found average surfing time dropping by 15% to 14.9 hours in December from 17.5 hours in October.

But both of those findings appear to reflect temporary conditions. The TRI study attributed the drop to the closing of several free Internet-service providers, with the decreases almost made up by increases in cable-modem subscribers and other users. In addition, Nielsen/NetRatings found Internet usage back up again, to about 16.5 hours in each of the past two months.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.