Online most influential medium, but trust levels are low

Canadians still spend more time with the TV than any other medium, but the internet influences their purchasing decisions the most, according to a new survey.

Canadians still spend more time watching TV than surfing the web, but they ranked the internet as the most influential medium in their lives, according to a Digital Influence Index study conducted by Fleishman-Hillard, a global PR firm, and Harris Interactive, a market research specialist.

The average number of hours Canadians spend watching TV per week is 14.1, while they spend 13.1 hours surfing the net, according to the data, which is based on a 15-minute online survey taken between December 2009 and January 2010.

The study also found that Canadians’ weekly radio consumption also remains high – the average number of hours spent tuned in per week is 6.9, which remains higher than the time they spend listening to their mp3 players or phones (5.6 hours).

Consumption habits

Even though Canadians spend slightly more time watching TV than they do surfing the web, the internet has a greater impact on everyday decisions because more consumers ranked the internet as the most important medium in their lives.

According to the survey, 27% of Canadian consumers said TV is the most important medium in their lives, while 54% named the internet and 5% named newspapers.

Yet the marketing industry is not as savvy at targeting consumers in the online realm, as online ad spend is just 14% of the total advertising market, according to ZenithOptimedia figures referenced in the survey. This means there is a gap between the relative importance of the online medium, and the investment in marketing in the digital realm, according to Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive.

‘While consumers migrate online, marketers aren’t making the move to digital fast enough. They need to realign their marketing and communication programs or risk irrelevance in the consumers’ mind,’ says David Bradfield, senior partner and global chair of Fleishman-Hillard’s digital practice, in a release.

But when it comes to the most influential information sources, advice from family or friends still comes out on top with 28% of Canadians naming WOM as their most important information source, while 21% said the internet. Newspapers tend to be more reliable than TV – 12% said newspapers were their most important info source, 10% said radio, while only 8% said TV.

It wasn’t all good news for the print medium, however, as in Canada, 42% of online consumers do not read magazines and 28% do not read a printed newspaper. This is slightly greater than online consumers in France, the UK and Japan, where the number of consumers who don’t read magazines hovers around 30%.

Too much information

Canadians are most likely to report that other people share too much information online – 68% said there was an excess of private details online, compared to 53% globally.

As if marketers needed any more proof of the importance of viral info-sharing, internet users find online conversations with friends or coworkers both trustworthy (97%) and useful (96%). When it comes to comments posted by readers on websites, Canadians are cautious about the quality of info, as only 27% said they would trust strangers’ comments, however 53% said they found them useful.

Meanwhile, blogs are not the most dependable info source on the web, as only 11% said they would trust this source and 19% said they would find info useful.

Meanwhile, paid bloggers are not well liked by consumers; 82% of consumers said they would not trust an article written by a blogger that receives free samples or services in exchange for their writing.

Canadians were also globally the least likely to trust companies that maintain microblogs like Twitter – 76% of consumers said a company that has a microblog makes no difference in their overall confidence in that brand, while 15% said they trust it ‘a little more,’ only 3% said they trust that brand ‘a lot more’ and 7% said they actually trust it less.