Consumer perceptions of the Internet and different media

consumers, the Internet was felt to have a will of its own, in the form of the creators of the sites (the ghosts in the machine). A snake traps you and then tightens its grip. A fox is mischievous.

In comparison with other media, the Internet was described as follows:

The Internet seemed less like a medium of communication than the others, and more like a reservoir of information.

This distinction was based on differences in the mode of operating: other media communicated to you whereas with the Internet the user had to actively seek and extract information for themselves. In this sense, the Internet is a recessive medium that sits waiting to be interrogated, whereas other media are actively trying to target their communications to the consumer.

This meant that these users (who were not addicted or high Internet users) were usually task-orientated and focused on manipulating their way around (tunnel vision). The more inexperienced you were, the more concentration was needed, but irritation or frustration was never far away for most people.

Everywhere, regardless of experience and availability, the Internet was seen as a huge resource, with futuristic values, that indicated the way the world was going to be. It was respected for its convenience and usefulness. Through the Internet you could learn, solve problems, achieve goals, travel the world without leaving your desk, and enter otherwise inaccessible spaces. It gave choice and control, but also feelings of isolation and inadequacy. There was an onus on people wherever possible to experience this medium and use it for learning and communicating.

The most positive attitudes were in North America. Slick and well-structured web sites made a positive impression and were a valuable means of securing information through the links to other sites and to carry out e-commerce. However, even here there was frustration at slow downloading and some uncooperative sites. In other countries, there was concern at the irresponsibility of the medium, lack of seriousness and dependability. There was desire for supervisory and controlling bodies (which are common for print and TV). Banner ads were resented as contributing to the distractions and irritations. Sometimes they seemed deliberately hostile by distracting you and then getting you lost. Internet advertising had the lowest respect and status, being regarded as peripheral and trivial.

In the least economically advanced countries, the Internet was considered a divisive medium which excluded those without the resources, expertise or special knowledge.

Table 8.2 and Figure 8.4 present the final evaluation of the Internet against other media.

Table 8.2 Comparison of the properties of different media

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