I can cite ways in which telephone-based and mail-based survey research have declined in efficacy while increased in cost, time, and headaches all day. These methodologies are still appropriate for certain types of marketing research studies, but when we can construct a solid online-based solution, we strongly recommend this route.

On occasions where I want to find data to support rationale for recommending an online survey methodology for a particular target I consult a number of regularly updated sources. One very helpful source, especially when the targeting is based on demographics or life stage, is the Pew Internet & American Life Project. I’ve referred to their 2005 research on Internet usage many times, but I expect to refer to their newest report on generational Internet usage in the coming weeks and months.

The report views Internet use by Howe & Strauss’ generational labels, but breaking Boomers into younger/older categories. I personally don’t like to hinge my recommendations on generational labels as I’m inclined to abstract generational definitions in favor of softer life stage and behavioral categorizations. These numbers still work as support stats for me, though, as they are largely examined by age divisions; the generational profiling is more precisely applied in their reporting of online behaviors.

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I find the Pew reports to be particularly helpful in providing data on the percentages of Americans of different age groups online, and in illuminating what activities persons of each group are doing online (who is engaging in social networking? who is still using email outside of the workplace? shopping online? looking for health information?)  I do not, however, look at this source as the final authority, however, as alas, though this research seems to have been conducted appropriately and with a large sample, the respondents were engaged through landline telephone.  This may help prevent online usage bias, but the problem remains: what trade-offs do we make in choosing an online versus telephone methodology?

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