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Class Distinction

Blue-collar workers and seniors are on the Net and demanding your attention.

Is the Web really going the way of supermarket tabloids and double-wides? Rumblings about the downscaling of the Internet have been swirling lately. Leading audience measurement service Nielsen/NetRatings reports that 58 percent of all Americans now have Internet access. That figure comes hot on the trail of a variety of Web demographics studies showing a fast rise in blue-collar and senior surfers.

The makeup of the Net audience has a lot to do with which sites and e-businesses will survive and thrive in the coming years. Making sense of the statistics is another matter. Between March 2000 and March 2001, Nielsen/Netratings says, Net access at home leapt 52 percent among blue-collar workers-more than any other group. Homemakers came in second with a 49 percent increase.

What entrepreneurs can glean from all this is that the Web is finally settling firmly into the mainstream. "Now, nearly every socioeconomic group is aggressively adopting the Web, [which is] having a fundamental impact on e-commerce, online advertising and more," said Sean Kaldor, NetRatings' vice president of e-commerce. "This continues to open up new mid-market opportunities for mass merchandising, consumer packaged goods marketing and value-conscious e-commerce."

Entrepreneurs don't exactly have to rush out and add National Enquirer headlines or soap opera updates to their sites to keep up. But as the Web starts looking more and more like the soda-and-chips aisle at the grocery store, growing businesses may want to take a fresh look at who their audience is and tailor their offerings and site design accordingly.

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Class Distinction.

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