Internet Top Information Resource, Study Finds

A study that monitored 74 people over four days during the Fall of 2000 shows that Americans need answers to four questions per day, spend nearly 9 hours per week looking for those answers, online or off, and that the Internet has become their top information resource — a remarkable change, considering it has only been widely available for about six years.

The Consumer Daily Question Study was conducted by Lewis, Mobilio & Associates, on behave of answer service It tracked people in Boston, Des Moines and San Diego. Each person was given a tape recorder to document questions that occurred to them. More than 1,200 questions were collected, yielding insight into how Americans seek information. The survey found:

People ask an average of 5 questions per day and need outside assistance in getting 4 of them answered.

People spend an average of 8.75 hours per week searching for answers to their questions, which is equal to about 1.5 days per month or 19 days per year.

No one source is perfect for providing answers to everything. Participants said they would use a variety of different resources to locate answers.

In particular, the Internet and search engines led the list of information resources used to locate answers to questions:

Internet/Search Engines 31.6%
Friends, Family & Neighbors 29.0%
Salespeople & Service Providers 24.3%
Books 8.6%
Medical Professional, Psychologists 7.1%
Magazines 6.2%
Find Out Myself 6.0%
Newspaper 5.2%
Contact Product Manufacturer or Service 4.2%
Yellow Pages 4.0%
Library 3.6%
Contact Government Agency 2.8%
TV Shows (non-news) 2.1%
Consumer Reports 1.8%
TV News 1.9%
Bookstore 1.3%
Radio 1.1%
Local Ads/Billboards 0.7%
Encyclopedia or Dictionary 0.6%
Map 0.4%
Business contact 0.2%

NOTE: Totals add to more than 100 percent because they indicate how often different resources are accessed, not a choice between them.

Human assistance is actually more popular than the Internet, when the “Friends, Family & Neighbors” and “Salespeople & Service Providers” categories are added together.

What especially interesting here is that the survey shows how important search engines have become in everyday lives. Before 1994, general purpose search engines and the World Wide Web as a whole was not widely available. Today, according to the survey, search engines are an essential part of ordinary life.

Unfortunately, the survey also found that half of those turning to search engines said they failed to find the answers they wanted.

The most frequently asked questions were as follows:

Entertainment & Recreation 14.0%
Health 11.3%
Home 9.6%
Finance 7.5%

However, the questions deemed most important to have answered were related to:

  • Finance
  • Legal
  • Computers
  • Travel.

Those in the study said they were willing to pay $14.50 per week to get the right answers to questions. In a further breakdown, they said they would pay $10 for answers to questions deemed “important” and about $2 for less important answers. In some cases, they would pay $100 or more for answers to critical health questions.

The survey included a range of participants, such as a firefighter, a lawyer, a retired insurance investigator, full-time students and a car salesperson.

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