- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

The Internet has become a reliable place to find information, and most people who surf the Web regularly expect to find what they are looking for, according to a survey released yesterday.
With more than 72 million Americans using the Internet and online shopping sales reaching record levels, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said most people are confident the Internet can help them.
The nonprofit research group in Washington reports that 84 percent of Americans expect the World Wide Web to have information on health care, government, news or shopping. Among regular Internet users, that figures soars to 97 percent.
Newer users expect the Internet to contain information important to them, Pew reported. The report's authors, Pew director Lee Rainie and research specialist John Horrigan, said hype over the Internet's possibilities has given newer users even higher expectations.
"With the steady growth of Internet penetration, and the sometimes-fevered focus on the Internet's transformative potential, Americans have begun to expect a lot from the Internet," the report said.
Pew reported that among regular Internet users:
About 85 percent who went online for information on shopping and e-commerce found what they were looking for all or most of the time.
About 87 percent of those seeking news usually found what they were looking for.
About 76 percent of those looking for health care information found it all or most of the time.
Pew interviewed 1,318 Internet-using adults and 774 non-users.
A sizable minority of Internet users still said that they did not usually find the information they were looking for. For instance, nearly 30 percent of people seeking government information did not find what they wanted most of the time.
And while about 64 percent of non-users are confident the Internet can provide them with information they need, more than half were less confident about its ability to provide up-to-date news and health care information.
Still, confidence in the Internet is growing, particularly in the area of shopping, Pew said, and that has boosted online retail even as the overall economy has suffered.
Through October of this year, more than 72 million people, or 62 percent of the nation's Internet users, bought something online, compared with 48 percent in 2000. Online retail sales this year totaled more than $10 billion through October, up 37 percent from the first nine months of last year. And despite a sluggish holiday season for retailers, online sales during the week before Christmas hit $1.9 billion, up 17 percent from last year, according to ComScore Networks, an Internet research company.
"The main reason for the growth in the population of e-consumers is increasing comfort with online transactions for Internet users," Pew said.
Pew's findings complement those from ACNielsen, a marketing information company, and online Web portal Yahoo. The Yahoo Consumer Confidence Index, compiled by the two firms, indicated that confidence in the Internet has risen 13 percent since mid-2001. The two companies acknowledged that the index fell slightly earlier this year after some consumers faced billing and shipping problems with holiday orders last year.
The increased use of broadband connections also is making the Internet more useful, Pew said. And higher connections speeds are closing the gap between those who find news online and those who get it off television. About 60 percent of people with high-speed connections watch TV news, and 43 percent get their news from the Internet.
The Internet, however, has not yet replaced television as the primary source of news. Among all Internet users, 59 percent still watch TV news regularly, while only 25 percent look for news online.

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