The Internet has already surpassed television and other media as the "most essential" medium, depending on what age group you fall under. The new Internet and Multimedia 2007 report by Edison Media Research surveyed consumers 12 and older earlier this year and found the Internet (33 percent) is gaining rapidly on television (36 percent) as "most essential."
In a similar study, just five years ago, TV led the Internet by a wide margin, 39 to 22 percent. Radio netted a 26 percent "most essential" response in the 2002 study.
The Internet is rated most essential by a majority in the 12 to 44 year old age groups; while the older age brackets skew toward television as most essential giving TV the overall edge -- for now.
"With Web 2.0 and access to the Internet on different devices, like the iPhone where you can have the Internet in your pocket, there's no way for interest in the Internet to go anywhere but up," Jason Hollins, vice president at Edison Media Research, told internetnews.com. "In almost every category we surveyed, the Internet has doubled or tripled where in consumer's minds it bleeds into all facets of their lives."
Newspapers won dubious top marks (35 percent) for "Least essential" medium. The Internet, which was tops at 33 percent in 2002, was named by only 24 percent of those surveyed as "least essential." Radio and television were each named least essential by 18 percent of those surveyed.
Radio and TV still tops in some categories.
But the results weren't all a slam-dunk for the Internet. For example, when it comes to learning about new music, radio remains far and away the leading medium, listed by 48 percent of respondents versus the Internet (25 percent) and television (12 percent). But the Internet only had a 9 percent share in 2002, while radio has fallen from 63 percent in 2002.
Television still has a firm grip (62 percent) as the top first source people turn to in the event of a major news story. Again, the Internet has made incursions, eating into what was a 74 percent response for television in 2002. The Internet went from 8 to 18 percent in 2007 as the first source people turn to for coverage of a major news story.
Edison said it conducted telephone interviews over the course of two months, January/February 2007, from a random national sample of 1,855 Arbitron Fall 2006 survey diary keepers, age 12 and older.
Hollins noted that the "beauty and curse or research" is that you stick with the same wording to try and ensure a high degree of confidence in the results and where the trends are heading. "Today there's no confusion about what you mean when you say 'Internet' or 'TV'," he noted.
"But in 2012, if we ask about television, will people still think of it as a box in the living room you sit in front of, or will television and the Internet morph into each other?"