Interactive Media: Will It Eat Us? — Focus Group From The Decision Shop Finds Excitement . . . Tinged With Fear

NEW YORK – What do consumers want from interactive media? Unfortunately, the only people who could possibly provide an answer – consumers – don’t really understand the question.
The usual savvy consumers know and like the new media. They use their phones and computers to shop and bank from home. They eagerly anticipate new developments. They are 10% of the population.
To find out what the rest of the people think, The Decision Shop, a Backer Spielvogel Bates-owned research company recently convened a focus group to try to divine the interactive views of the 55% of Americans that Decision Shop president Larry Chiagouris calls ‘fence-sitters.’ Answer: They’re confused and ambivalent about all this.
The group, made up of 10 mainstream (hopefully ‘fence-sitting’) consumers was an effort that elicited a barrage of contradictory responses – excitement, wonder, apprehension, even fear.
‘I have two reactions,’ said Debbie, a high school teacher, ‘and they’re totally antithetical to one another. I think it’s marvelous that you can learn so much . . . What I don’t like, what I’m afraid of is, I feel that I’ll be sitting at home not interacting with people, living, breathing people.’ In varying degrees all the participants expressed discomfort with negative aspects; such as the potential of ‘addiction’ to the technology, leading ultimately to alienation and ‘couch-potato-ism.’ But they were enthralled with the possibilities for education, information, exchange and progress in medical research. They hardly mentioned the genre’s home entertainment capability.
When it came to dollars and cents, the group consensus was that the technology would be available on the same basis as cable television. They estimated about $25 a month for ‘basic service,’ with added costs for more advanced features and services. Is it worth it? ‘What do you get for it?’ they ask. Does it matter who offers it (i.e., the cable company or the phone company)? Not really. What if it has advertising? ‘No. No advertising.’ But if advertising makes it cheaper? ‘It depends on what they give you.’
These fence-sitters are cautious. But the Decision Shop and other media researchers and players aren’t about to give up. ‘This is the first step,’ explains Chiagouris, ‘in what is going to be an ongoing series monitoring the interactive trials that will take place across the country.’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)

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