When asked to choose between a telephone, television or
Internet access, a majority would choose the latter, according to a recent survey
conducted by Roper Starch Worldwide for America Online Inc.
In a random telephone survey of 1,001 adults with access to
online services in the home, 67 percent said they would prefer a computer connected to the
Internet to a working telephone (23 percent) if they were stranded on a desert island for
an extended period of time. Only 9 percent opted for a television as the No. 1 choice.
Just under half (47 percent) of those surveyed said being
online has a more positive influence on their children than watching television. According
to a press release, this and other Roper research leads America Online to suggest the
Internet has surpassed cable television -- as well as VCRs and stereos -- as necessities
for consumers who have access to those technologies.
The study also suggested that Internet usage is luring
consumers away from their televisions. Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they had
viewed more television before they went online.
But Jack Loftus, vice president of communications for
Nielsen Media Research, said a telephone survey alone can't verify whether
there's a direct causal relationship between spending more time online and less time
in front of the television.
"When we survey people, most people say they're
watching less TV, but the data doesn't support that," said Loftus, whose company
tracks television usage through in-home meters. "You have to be careful about relying
on people's memory."
Nielsen released its own study in November that indicated
Internet access at home has little impact on overall household television-viewing levels.
What's ultimately at stake in the conflicting research
is what advertisers believe, and whether they'll be persuaded to shift more of their
ad spending from television to the Internet.