Consumers are more frequently basing their buying decisions on information gleaned from shopping Web sites, blogs, and social networking sites, according to a study by USC Annenberg's Strategic PR Center and Ketchum. At the same time, local and national television news broadcasts are losing their clout with consumers, the study found.
Not only are people using commercial shopping sites more - the figure has more than doubled since its 2006 study - but they are turning these into places to gather information from peers. Of those who visit shopping sites, 44% said they read consumer reviews and comments posted there, according to the "2008 US Media Myths & Realities" survey.
“Digital media channels are growing among all demographics, from digital natives to surfing social seniors," said Jerry Swerling (pictured right), director of PR Studies and the Strategic PR Center. "Amazon is now not just a shopping site. It’s a media destination."
Gur Tsabar, VP of interactive strategies and search marketing at Ketchum, said that the tactics used by PR professionals have changed because of the shifts found in the study.
"There are new skills involved, and there are new ways to insert clients into conversations that are going on across the Web," he said. "The old job was talking to an editor or reporter, but it now includes that and also blogger relations and counseling companies on how to insert their points of view on social networking sites."
Nearly one-quarter (24%) of consumers responded that they read blogs, up from 13% in 2006. Meanwhile 26% of respondents said they use social networking Web sites, up from 17% more than two years ago.
Consumer use of TV news dropped during the same period. Sixty-five percent of consumers responded that they use national network television news as an information source, down from 71% in 2006, and 62% of respondents said they use local television news to gather information, down 12% during that time.
Consumer use of search engines remained steady, as 59% of consumers said they use them for information-gathering. Six in 10 respondents said they use search engines to glean information in 2007.
"This is why, fundamentally, we are looking at Google as the world's largest publication," Tsabar added.
The survey is in its third year. It reached 1,000 US adults, including 200 considered "influencers" and 500 communications professionals, between September 30 and October 18, 2008. Studies were also conducted in the UK and Brazil.
Swerling discussed the study results at a presentation at USC Annenberg on Jan. 21.
"Gone are the days of seniors being offline," he said. "Forget it. Those days are gone. Younger people are out of the discovery age. The places where younger people go online now are much more established now. Conversely, seniors are still in the discovery stage. They’re where the younger ones were before."