Online Users Value Web Highly -- But Trust it Less and Less

By Mark Berniker

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The authors of the ongoing UCLA Internet Report, created by the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, are reporting some intriguing findings about Web use.

One key trend: many online users are surfing the Web at the expense of time spent watching television. While the migration of the TV audience to the Web is not in itself a new finding, the study says that Internet users watched nearly five and half hours less of television per week compared to those not spending time on the Internet.

The study has been going on for more than three years, and is examining subtle trends in how people are entertained, and how they split some of their leisure time between television and the Internet.

Consumer media habits are also a component of the study. The study found that of the 71.1 percent of Americans who spend time on the Internet, 61.1 percent found it "very" or "extremely" important to them, compared with 57.8 percent for newspapers, 50.2 percent for television and 40 percent for radio. So beyond sheer time, the Web has taken on great significance to how people are consuming media.

But while many Internet users turn to the Web for information and entertainment, the issue of credibility continues to be a concern. Only 52.8 percent of Internet users found most or all of the information online do they deem credible in 2002, down from 58 percent in 2001, and 55 percent in 2000.

The study's authors expect users will become increasingly skeptical of the information offered on the Web. The study also found that the number of people conducting online shopping transactions is falling, but the amount being spent by the shoppers going online is increasing.

The study also found, however, that most people are less concerned about the risk of personal data and credit card information of being stolen online.

The UCLA study showed that online users are still concerned about privacy. 88.8 percent of the respondents said they had some privacy concerns, down from 94.6 percent in 2001.