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|Market research reports aren’t supposed to come as $24.95 trade
paperbacks -- they’re supposed to be $250+ spiral-bound monsters with color
chapter separators and news conference kick-offs. McGraw-Hill and Cyber
Dialogue (formerly the Emerging Technologies Research Group at market
research firm Find/SVP) break with that traditional publishing model, a
gamble that should pay off for both the publisher and the research firm.
One reason The State of the Net can be marketed at this lower price point is that it truly does speak to most present and future Web entrepreneurs. Author Peter Clemente reports the results of a national telephone survey of adult American Internet users and non-users, comparing the two gross categories across numerous demographic axes and further breaking down Internet users into four major groups. Those groups are split depending upon where the user accesses the Net (i.e., home or work) and if they pay for their own account, with further, more in-depth looks at how various income and educational segments within each of those groups use the Internet.
Some of the results Clemente reports as “news” have, in fact, been known to the Internet research community for some time. For instance, on several occasions he stresses how the Internet user population is becoming more like the American public in terms of average income, age, and educational attainment. It’s hard to imagine how the Internet could have gotten more geeky as its user base doubled every year for five years, but surveys reported in the Net-savvy media have noted the normalizing trend for a few years now. Even so, I can’t blame Clemente for wanting to make sure readers who don’t read summaries of the survey literature (like those provided by NUA Ltd. of Ireland) didn’t still see the Internet as a collection of thirty-five year-old single hackers living in their parents’ basements.
Using these basic categories (which are actually articulated fairly late in The State of the Net) and a history of the Internet, Clemente analyzes the survey’s results in a variety of useful ways, including which user segments are most likely to shop online, what proportion of the online population are women (and what they want out of the experience, and how Internet advertising is faring. There are way too many useful tidbits of information to mention in a brief review, a very good sign for readers.
As positive as my experience with The State of the Net was in general, there were a few offhand remarks that, aside from being a bit snide, yanked me out of the narrative. One comment, about how no one had actually seen a Network Computer aside from a prototype Larry Ellison of Oracle shows off at conferences, was out of place the first time it occurred; that it was repeated later, almost verbatim, came off as gratuitous bashing.
That note aside, I’m impressed that Cyber Dialogue and McGraw-Hill have broken the ice and made this type of research available to the mass market. The book might be a loss-leading attempt by Cyber Dialogue to promote future research products, but as a stand-alone product The State of the Net is well worth the asking price.
Curtis D. Frye (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor and chief reviewer of Technology and Society Book Reviews. He worked for four years as a defense industry analyst at The MITRE Corporation in McLean, VA, and is the author of Privacy-Enhanced Business, from Quorum Books.