Marketers Take Note: The Elusive 18-34 Year-Old is Habitually Online

New Online Publishers Association Report Reveals that 18 to 34 Year-Olds are More Frequent and Active Internet Users than Any Other Age Group

NEW YORK, March 29, 2004 – The Online Publishers Association (OPA) released today the first in a series of research reports designed to provide a detailed view of the 18 to 34 year-old consumer. The first installment of the research, conducted in partnership with Comscore Networks, found that 72% of all 18 to 34 year-olds are online – the highest percentage of any age group.

Notably, 18 to 34 year-olds account for a significantly larger share of Internet usage relative to their proportion in the total U.S. population. While 18 to 34 year-olds comprise only 24% of the total U.S. population, they account for 38% of the total time spent online and 40% of the total pages viewed. This skew is even more pronounced among men in this age group.

“The recent debate surrounding the shifting media consumption patterns of 18 to 34 year-olds demands a deeper look into this important consumer segment,” said Michael Zimbalist, executive director of the Online Publishers Association. “Because this group represents the first ‘generation’ to have grown up with the Internet, their behavior patterns are a harbinger of future media consumption of the population at large.”

Coming of Age in the Digital Age
Like all Internet users, 18 to 34 year-olds are most likely to go online at home, from work or from school. However, 18 to 34 year-olds are significantly more likely than other age groups to access the Web from other non-traditional locations. For example, within 30 days of the survey date, 24% of 18 to 34 year-olds accessed the Web from a friend/relative’s home, 16% accessed the Internet via cell phone, and 8% accessed the Web from a library – a significantly higher percentage than any other age group.

“Eighteen to 34 year-olds feel a perpetual need to stay connected. This group expects to get online whenever they choose and wherever they are,” said Mr. Zimbalist.

Eighty-two percent of these consumers report that they are comfortable with new technologies, and more than one-third claim that they are among the first within their peer groups to buy the latest technology gadgets. In fact, 18 to 34 year-olds are significantly more likely than the average Internet user to own a number of digital devices. For example, 17% own an MP3 player (vs. 12%), and 48% own a video game console (vs. 32%).

Let ’Net Entertain You!
More than any other age group, 18 to 34 year olds consider the Internet to be one of the most important sources of entertainment available to them. They use the Internet both as a primary source of entertainment and as a resource for entertainment news and information. Forty percent use the Web to help choose a movie to watch (and to find out where/when it’s playing), while about one-third use it to view local restaurant and club listings.

Astonishingly, on a daily basis, an average of 30% of all 18 to 34 year-old Internet users visit an entertainment Web site. That rivals the percentage who typically read the arts/entertainment section of the newspaper (32%) and exceeds the percentage who regularly read entertainment magazines (19%).

Beyond just visiting entertainment and music sites, 18 to 34 year-olds are more likely to engage in downloading, sharing and burning music and videos online and are more avid consumers of online video content than any other age group.

Mars and Venus: Gender Differences Play Out in Visitation Data
Overall, entertainment-related sites, as well as the careers, personals and classifieds categories, show above-average visitation among 18 to 34 year olds regardless of gender. However, significant gender differences do exist within the 18-34 year old population when analyzing visitation data.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 18 to 34 year old females are disproportionately more likely to visit retail categories than the average Internet user. In fact, 10 of the 15 categories with the highest proportion of females 18 to 34 years old are retail categories. However, with a few interesting exceptions – namely tickets and consumer electronics – males 18 to 34 year-olds are focused on non-retail categories, such as gaming, automotive and sports. Further analysis of category data by gender can be found below.

Top Indexing Categories*
Visitation by Males 18-34 and Females 18-34 Indexed to Total U.S. Online Audience
Source: Comscore Media Metrix, October 2003
Males Aged 18-34   Females Aged 18-34
  Index Reach     Index Reach
Gaming Information 136 33.9%   Retail-Fragrances/Cosmetics 164 10.6%
Automobile Manufacturer 133 15.7%   Retail-Jewelry/Lux, Goods/Access. 147 8.6%
Sports 132 47.7%   Retail-Toys 141 13.4%
Travel-Car Rental 129 3.2%   Retail-Apparel 140 35.3%
Retail-Tickets 127 17.7%   Retail-Food 140 9.9%
Entertainment-Movies 124 31.5%   Retail-Flwrs/Gifts/Greetings 137 25.3%
Dir/Resources-Personals 124 31.4%   Retail-Department Stores 137 27.8%
Retail-Cons. Electronics 123 38.8%   Community-Family 135 34.7%
Automotive 122 38.4%   Retail-Home Furnishings 133 15.2%
Dir/Resources-Classifieds 122 19.8%   Retail-Tickets 132 18.5%
Entertainment-Music 120 53.0%   Community-Women 130 42.1%
Entertainment-Radio 120 12.7%   Hobbies/Lifestyles-Food 129 22.8%
Automotive-Resources 120 32.4%   Retail-Movies 129 13.0%
Auctions 118 51.3%   Careers 128 29.6%
Service-Free Web Hosting 118 53.9%   Travel-Car Rental 126 3.1%

*Excludes Adult category

So Essential You Can Take It to the Bank
While 18 to 34 year-olds spend less time at banking and personal finance sites that the average Internet user (due to the fact that they typically have fewer investments and products to manage), they report that they are actually more likely to bank online – that is, check their account balances, transfer money and pay loans online – compared to any other age group. Comfort with online banking among 18 to 34 year-olds extends into other financial activity as well. They are more likely to apply for credit online, use an online payment service, obtain a personal or car loan and purchase car insurance online than other groups.

“When taken overall, this first installment of our research into 18 to 34 year-olds clearly shows that the Internet has become the dominant medium in the lives of this highly sought after group,” said Mr. Zimbalist. “They use it at home, at work, at school and everywhere in between. They use it not only as a source of news and information, but also as a primary source of entertainment and as the central control panel for their personal finances. So if you’re looking to reach these rather elusive consumers, look no further than the Internet.”

Detailed findings from this report can be found at the Online Publishers Association Web site at Future research installments pertaining to 18 to 34 year-old consumers will be released by the OPA in the coming weeks.

Comscore Media Metrix Methodology
Comscore Media Metrix, a division of Comscore Networks, Inc., provides industry-leading audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and buying power for home, work and university audiences across . This capability is based on a representative cross-section of more than 1.5 million global Internet users, who have given Comscore explicit permission to monitor their Web-wide browsing, buying and other transaction behavior. All Comscore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.

About the Online Publishers Association
Founded in June 2001, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) is an industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the interests of high-quality online publishers before the advertising community, the press, the government and the public. Members of OPA represent the standards in Internet publishing with respect to editorial quality and integrity, credibility and accountability. OPA member sites have a combined, unduplicated reach of 110.5 million visitors, or 73 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience (Source: Comscore Media Metrix, February 2004 combined home/work/university data). For more information about the Online Publishers Association, visit

Bill Daddi
Daddi Brand Communications