WWWhere are we going?

One of my favorite stories about the hesitancy some people had to embrace the Internet in the 1990s involves a former colleague.

by Patrick McLaughlin

One of my favorite stories about the hesitancy some people had to embrace the Internet in the 1990s involves a former colleague. He put a twist on the question, “What is the Internet?” which was actually asked by many who would now never admit to having posed it. My former colleague put it this way: “When I get on the interstate highway, I know where I’m going. But tell me this. When I get onto the Internet, where am I going?” He has since figured it out, I’m glad to report.

"We at Cabling Installation & Maintenance recently polled a cross-section of our audience-you, our readers-to stay in touch with your online practices. The motivation for the poll was partially selfish or, to use a more politically correct term, “mutually beneficial” to you and us. The more we know about the amount of time you spend online, and how you spend that time, the better able we’ll be to allocate our resources to providing information products in that forum. And the more information you can get online, the better. At least that’s what our poll results show.

Here are summarized results of what we found out about your peers:

More than four out of five (81.8% in all) use the Internet during regular business hours. The exact question posed in our poll was: Generally, when do you use the Internet? The options were: In the early morning before the workday begins; during regular business hours; and, in the evening after working hours. Respondents could choose more than one response because, logically, they could be online during any or all of those times. While more than 80% spend time online during the day, nearly two-thirds (66%) go online after work. And just about half (48.1%) do so before working hours.

Why is that information important to us? It’s nice to know that if we schedule a Web-based seminar for 1 p.m. Eastern Time (which we do) or send our electronic newsletter at 3 p.m. ET (which we also do), someone is on the receiving end.

Next, concerning time spent online per week, one-third of those polled spend more than 10 hours online conducting business-related activities, such as researching technologies and pricing products. Another third spends between 1 and 5 hours on such activities, and 29% spend somewhere in the middle-between 6 and 10 hours weekly. Fewer than 5% spend less than an hour online per week on business-related research.

While we don’t know exactly how much of that weekly research ultimately results in product purchases, we do have some gauge of the regularity with which your peers are making business-related purchases online. Nearly 7-of-10 make work-related purchases online either every month (37.7%) or every few months (32%). On the other end of the spectrum, 14.5% tell us they never make work-related purchases online-a statistic from which I conclude that their online activity can be considered “browsing.” The remaining respondents, just about 16%, make business purchases online once a year or less frequently than that.

Finally, results were split right down the middle when it came to mixing business with pleasure online. The question we asked was: When using the Internet, do you typically segregate online sessions between business and personal activities? Just slightly fewer than half-49.2%-answered, “Yes, it’s always one or the other,” while the slim majority-50.8%-said, “No, I sometimes mix business and pleasure in a single online session.”

Two points I think are important here. First, despite the fact that half of those polled mix work and fun on the Web, the earlier statistics about time online specifically refer to business-related research and purchases. We were explicit in our wording of those questions. Notwithstanding that, the second point is that if anyone wants to hold the attention of cabling-industry professionals online, they had better realize that in about half the cases, they’ll be competing with the likes of a bald Britney Spears, the late Anna Nicole Smith, and anything else YouTube has to offer.

So, I’ll twist my former colleague’s question around a little bit, and point it in your direction. Tell me this: When you get onto the Internet, where are you going?

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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