ST LOUIS: The internet boasts twice the influence of television and ten times the impact of print, according to a global study.
Fleishman-Hillard, the PR firm, surveyed 4,243 people to produce its 2010 Digital Influence Index, which aimed to provide an insight into popular attitudes relating to new and traditional media.
The web was named as the most important medium in all of the countries assessed - a group that included Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and US.
It played a particularly central role in China, which is home to the world's largest and fastest-growing online audience.
As penetration levels currently stand at just 27% in China, compared to a total of around 60% in advanced markets, Fleishman-Hillard expected this channel to gain further ground going forward.
The net was also widely regarded as a vital research and communications tool, but 53% of respondents thought people shared too much data about their personal lives online.
A third of participants found user-generated content interesting, but a growing number reported there was a danger of "oversharing".
Elsewhere, more than a fifth of contributors were concerned that expressing their views on the web may have negative consequences for their reputation, public persona, career or even financial security.
While a majority internet users looked to interact with their peers through social networks, blogs and similar properties, they did not believe everything they read.
In fact, they tended to rely more on information from governmental or corporate sources than on material posted by their fellow consumers.
Across all of the countries featured in the analysis, panellists displayed a lack of confidence in content authored by sponsored or professional bloggers.
Awareness of Twitter and other microblogging services had reached 78% among the sample, with one third of those polled having joined one of these portals.
Members of these platforms perceived brands that monitored their comments favourably, arguing this was a "sign that organisations care about their needs and want their feedback".
Overall, the Digital Influence Index argued advertisers must "continue to rebalance their media mix to address an unquestionable shift in the media influence patterns of consumers worldwide".
This is because the web takes a modest 14% of global adspend at present but the amount of time consumers spend using this medium is considerably greater.
Data sourced from Fleishman-Hillard; additional content by Warc staff