'Net Loss

More than two months ago, Parks Associates--a Dallas-based market research and consulting firm--produced a study that said the unfathomable (but obvious?): Americans are tired of the Internet. Seriously, according to the study, "few new households [are] willing to subscribe to Internet services, which will limit 2006 growth in overall Internet penetration to one percent." Which means, in short, that only 64 percent of the households in the U.S. will have access to the Web. Announcing the report, John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associates, explained that despite the ease and expense of owning a computer, "many households still show little enthusiasm for the technology," by which I assume he refers to my father.

Though the report came out at the end of February, it's still garnering much attention and attracting much controversy: It sparked an article titled "The Closing of the American Internet" in the latest issue of Newsweek's international edition, and Barrett tells Unfair Park this morning that this report "has circulated longer than our average study, probably because this one is more interesting and applicable to the nation as a whole." (Most of Park Associates' studies deal with the gaming and entertainment industries or other home-based technologies.)

"There's been a whole range of reactions to the study," Barrett says. "We had a guy from the San Jose Mercury News go, 'I knew it all along, I just couldn't prove it!' And another guy said, 'Well, I can't believe it.' And of course it's been everything else in between. But it's an interesting topic. There is an underlying assumption that everyone wants more technology in their life, they just can't afford it. For us it's hard to imagine a day without Internet access, but many people don't have it and no one they know has it, so why should they want it? And it's a mixed blessing: When you're always in contact, you're always in contact."

Speaking of, Barrett says Parks Associates will release this summer a study we're particularly looking forward to: It's about blogs and social networking. --Robert Wilonsky


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