Free and Internet: Once united, never divided

July 28, 2010

You’ve probably heard the saying that “everyone” is using the Internet, especially if you were paying attention as the Web became a household word in the mid-1990s. That saying may now be literally true, if you’re of a certain age.

According to the latest report in an ongoing study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, all Americans who are 24 years old and younger are going online. Every single one of them, at least of the people surveyed. (Presumably infants and toddlers are exceptions here, but you get the idea: They’ll log on as soon as they get the chance.)

If you have any familiarity with surveying practices, you know that it’s tough to get a number anywhere near 100 percent on any question you ask. It’s virtually–though obviously not entirely–impossible to get every single survey respondent to agree on anything, including the color of the sky.

In the same report, exactly zero respondents of any age said that they would ever be willing to pay to use Twitter. Though Twitter has never indicated that it intends to charge for its services, its business model is an ongoing topic of discussion (albeit one that is beginning to take shape at long last, through partnerships with search engines and the recent emergence of promoted tweets).

For anyone alive under the age of 24 and anyone who will be born in the foreseeable future, it’s safe to say that Internet use will be a requirement for educational, career and perhaps even social success. For anyone aiming to make money on the Web by selling products or services to consumers, the lesson is also clear: You better tell your target audience to expect to pay for some or all of what you provide to them, sooner rather than later. Let the entrepreneur beware.


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