April 13, 2010
 

Internet Penetration: The US Does Not Reflect the World

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By Anna Murray, President, tmg e*media

Sunday, at the airport in Athens, the sun was beaming, and the wind was stirring lightly. The temperature-67 degrees. In New York, my destination, all hell was breaking loose. News reports recounted rain, hail, floods, storm surges, snow, and possibly the arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The email and cell phone alerts from Delta were becoming more ominous.

Flight rescheduled from 12:00 to 1:25.

Flight rescheduled from 1:25 to 3:30.

In other reports, we heard that Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia were all closed. To any seasoned traveler, the course of action seemed obvious: I prepared to hunker down at the hotel. My husband, who is Greek and knows the system, decided to call the gate agent in "El Vel"-the Athens airport. The conversation went something like this.

"I hear there is bad weather in New York."

"Yes. Possibly.

"Well, what time are you leaving?"

"We are leaving at the scheduled time."

"But we have been told the flight is not leaving until 3:30. And that the US airports are closed."

"The flight leaves at 1:25. We will close check-in at 1."

"Orea." Which means "great," but is often used sarcastically, as in "Oh, that's just great."

"By the way, Sir. Can you please tell me something? I have been receiving calls all morning from people saying these things about the flight being rescheduled. They know this information before we do. Who is telling you this?" He explained about the automated cell-phone and email system from Delta. The gate agent expressed her surprise with the characteristic, "Po, po, po!"

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Americans live in such a completely wired world; we forget that the rest of the world doesn't. Internet penetration in Greece is 33%, and mostly on dial-up. That takes us back to-well-something like 1996 in the US. The Netherlands and Sweden surpass the US, with penetration up in the 70s. (The US is 69%.) Who wins the prize in Europe? Iceland at 86%. Most people attribute this pattern to the fact that people in northern countries, presumably snowed in and dark for a large portion of the year, have turned to the Internet. Which, of course, does nothing to explain Portugal, with a penetration of 73%. All Europeans are thumbing away on their "mobiles"-keeping them in constant contact with each other, but not with all the media outlets on the Internet.

Another look at the statistics shows a huge opportunity. Most of the lower-penetration countries are burning up the measurement devices in their path to internet adoption. Internet growth in Greece 2002-2007 was 280%. Other Balkan nations, whose penetration hovers in the high teens, are growing at 500-1000%. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a blazing 11,000% growth rate over the period. All of Europe has a growth rate of about 200%. [On a clerical note, Vatican City has a 12% internet penetration rate. Of the 767 population, 93 are online.]

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These numbers suggest opportunity-particular in the area of travel. Given human nature, many desirable destinations in places where net penetration is low have terrible websites, if any at all. Americans-big travelers-make 80% of their travel arrangements online. And it's not all about distance. Influenced by advertising and the web, Americans know about Bali. But out of thousands of Greek islands, only Mykonos and Santorini are really very well known.

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Quoting from the above website from the fairly substantial island of Patmos, where St. John is thought to have written the book of Revelations, "Dear Friends, We are welcome you in our Municipality's web site. Patmos, the island of Greek Archipelago, that became worldwide acquaintance from the Revelation of Ioannis, is a place that it distinguishes. This particularity lies that it combines the historicity and the religiosity of space with the ideal place that offers in the visitor for relaxation and quiet vacations."

All I can say is, "Po, po, po!"

Speaking of travel, the flight left at 3:30, just as the Delta email predicted.

Anna Murray is the president of the e*media division at tmg-emedia (www.tmg-emedia.com). Her career is synonymous with the emergence of new media and the interactive space. Over the past 15 years she has worked with many top consumer packaged goods companies, including Keebler, Kellogg, Del Monte and Bayer. She launched the first branded multimedia game for Mott's; created the first instant-messenger "bot" for Kellogg's Recipe Buddie; and wrote the Marketing Sherpa Report, "The CPG eMarketing Guidebook." In addition, Anna's media expertise is being used by international media companies to develop print-to-web, e-marketing, and interactive strategies. Before founding e*media in 1996, Anna worked for NewsOne, the ABC News satellite feed service, and World News Tonight. Her blog, Content is Queen (www.contentisqueen.net) covers topics in emerging media. She can be reached at anna.murray@tmg-emedia.com.

tmg-e*media, inc. is an independent technology consulting firm headquartered in New York City with four practice areas, Consulting, Interactive, Application Development, and Managed IT Services. Founded in 1989, tmg-emedia (www.tmg-emedia.com) services include strategic planning, due diligence, integration, outsourcing, interactive, and specialized applications.

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