September 8, 2007
IBM Internet Survey Finds Respondents Spend a Lot of Time Online

Language can be an interesting thing. And an important one when you are talking about issues like consumer adoption. You know that we're interested in these issues at C3, and that I am a proponent for looking and preparing for the future. But I also believe a healthy dose of realism is good as well, and the hyperbole and overhype has saturated our discussion of technological point to the degree that even the most culturally savvy border on mild forms of technological determinism when they aren't careful.

Related to all of this, I was reading an IBM press release recently that touted the decline of television as the primary media device in the home, boasting that "the global findings overwhelmingly suggest personal Internet time rivals TV time."

The release, talking about a survey that is set to be a part of Saul Berman and Bill Battino's "The End of Advertising as We Know It," is quite adamant about how the Internet is "here." It even finds that "an average of 81 percent of consumers surveyed globally indicated they've watched or want to watch PC video, and an average of 42 percent indicated they've watched or want to watch mobile video."

Of course, the difference between "watched" and "want to watch" is vast, both because people often want to do things they don't get around to for a long time, and also because it doesn't indicate how many people who have watched online video would want to do it again. As I wrote about late last month, in fact, there are more than a few people who found downloading video unsatisfactory enough that they didn't plan to do it again, according to another survey.

But I'm interested in another important component to the study: the fact that it was an online survey. A survey, distributed online, finds that the type of people most likely to fill out an online survey spend a significant amount of time on the Internet. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.

I don't mean to suggest that the study is invalid. Quite the contrary. I think that it may provide lots of interesting data. And the authors state prominently in several places that this was an online survey. But, it's also important not to inflate those numbers to think that this is the percentage of the public at large rather than those polled through online channels. This means that Internet is becoming even more prominent among those who consider the Internet an important part of their lives already, perhaps.

IBM's Todd Watson writes, "Trackable, slicable, diceable, inferenceable, correlative, targeted digital advertising and communication based on explicit consumer expressions (search queries, online viewing, online shopping behaviors, etc.) is the future of marketing."

Maybe that's true...but when is the future? How much of it is now, and how long does it take the rest to get here?

For more on these issues, look here and here.

And see Wired's interview with Battino for more. And thanks to Geoffrey Long for bringing this study to my attention.