Web sites becoming the most popular source of information

Web sites are more important than ever. A recent report found that the Internet has become a mainstream information tool. It's even the first place that many people look for information. In many cases, it's even replacing the phone book!

The report, from the Pew Internet & American Life project, shows that Americans are relying on the Internet more than ever. Two-thirds of Americans expect to find the government, news, commerce and health-care information that they need on the web. Internet users are more likely than non-users to have high expectations of what they will find online, but even 40% of people who are not Internet users say they expect the web to have information in these areas.

According to the report, "the Internet is now the primary means by which many people get key information."

When asked where they will go for information about the government or its services, twice as many Internet users say they will go online to find government information as use the phone book. When all (including people that do not use the Internet) are asked the same question, the Internet is still more popular. 39% say they will go online vs. 37% that say they will call.

Internet users also have high expectations for finding the information that they want on the web. Internet users expect the Web to be a source of information on health care, government agencies, news, and shopping. About 80% expect the web to have information in these topic areas.

Internet users are much more likely to expect to find what they want on the Internet than non-users:

* 65% of all Americans expect the web to have that information about government services; 82% of Internet users say this and 39% of non-users say this.

* 63% expect that a business will have a Web site that gives them information about a product they are considering buying. Four out of five (79%) of Internet users say this and 38% of non-users say this.

* 69% expect to be able to find reliable, up-to-date news online; 85% of Internet users say this, compared with 43% of non-Internet users.

* 67% expect that they can find reliable information about health or medical conditions online; 81% of Internet users say this versus 45% of non-Internet users.

When these four categories are considered together, 84% have an expectation of finding information online in at least one of these areas. That translates into nearly all Internet users (97%) and most non-Internet users (64%).

For businesses, it is clear that an online presence is important,regardless of whether it actually sells over the Internet. If a companyprovides product information online, even if it doesn't sell products atits web site, nearly half of all Americans (46%) said this would makethem more likely to go to the physical store to buy the product.

People are relying on the Internet more than ever to get the informationthey need. In the area of e-commerce, people are using web sites as animportant source of purchasing information.

The report's authors sum it up like this: "Most expect to find keyinformation online, most find the information they seek, many now turnto the Internet first."

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