StarMedia Users Surfed, Bought More Online in '99

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (04/03/2000) - Users of StarMedia Network Inc.'s various Web sites and portals spent more time online, and more of them made online purchases in 1999 than in 1998, according to the company's second annual survey of its users' online behavior.

The survey results are in line with industry expectations that Internet usage and e-commerce activity among Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers will continue growing quickly in the coming years.

Over 22,500 respondents from Latin America, the U.S. and Spain completed the online survey, the company said today. StarMedia, a high-profile Internet company in Latin America, runs a variety of Web sites and portals aimed primarily at Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers.

Respondents spent an average of 10.4 hours connected to the Internet in 1999, up from 8.2 hours in 1998, and 42 percent reported shopping online in 1999, up from 29 percent in 1998, according to StarMedia. [See "Latin Americans Ready for E-Commerce," March 17, 1999.]About 77 percent of respondents said they plan to make an online purchase in 2000.

StarMedia users also seem to be connecting at higher speeds, since half of respondents said they connected to the Internet from home at speeds of at least 56k-bps in 1999, up from 33 percent in 1998.

In terms of alternative devices for accessing the Internet, 13 percent could do it from a wireless device and 10 percent from their television sets in 1999, according to the survey. But users are very interested in these types of alternative access devices, according to the survey. About 67 percent of respondents said they are interested in connecting to the Internet from their television sets, and 65 percent from a wireless device, the company said.

About 72 percent of the respondents chose to fill out the survey in Spanish, 27 percent in Portuguese and 1 percent in English. About half of Latin America's Internet users are in Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country.

The percentage of U.S. Hispanic respondents who purchased online in 1999 was the highest, with 66 percent, followed by Brazil (54 percent), Puerto Rico (53 percent) and Spain (51 percent). Venezuela came in fifth with 44 percent, followed by Colombia (38 percent), México (37 percent), Chile (36 percent) and Argentina (31 percent).

However, despite their high percentage of online buyers, Puerto Rico, Spain and the U.S. were the three markets with the lowest number of survey respondents, which would suggest that StarMedia needs to increase its penetration in these markets that have a higher e-commerce activity. Some 500 U.S. users filled out the survey, followed by Puerto Rico (389) and Spain (248). Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

The survey was conducted in Dec. 1999 and Jan. 2000 by The Laredo Group, a research firm based in Newton, Massachusetts, that specializes in Internet advertising. Banner ads to recruit respondents appeared in several StarMedia sites, including the company's flagship portal; LatinRed, a network of sites aimed at users in Spain; OpenChile, a portal for Chileans; Periscopio, a Spanish-language search engine and Web directory; and Cade and Zeek, a couple of Brazilian search engines.

The Internet population in Latin America is growing fast but remains tiny.

There were about 10.6 million users in 1999 in the region, a figure expected to grow to 66.6 million by 2005, according to estimates from Jupiter Communications Inc. Business-to-consumer e-commerce transactions totaled US$194 million in 1999, and are expected to grow to $8.3 billion in 2005, according to Jupiter estimates.

StarMedia, founded in 1996, is considered an Internet pioneer in Latin America.

Its success at raising capital -- about $450 million by Oct. 1999 -- is credited with igniting the enthusiasm over Latin America's Internet market, which has drawn companies such as Microsoft Corp., PSINet Inc. and Spain's Telefonica SA, as well as hot startups like Patagon.com International Ltd. and Yupi Internet Inc.

StarMedia, in New York City, can be reached at http://www.starmedia.com/.

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