When Viewers Become Searchers:
Measuring the Impact of Television on Internet Search Queries

Horst Stipp, NBC Universal and Dan Zigmond, Google, Inc.


The growth of computer penetration, Internet access, and the increased time spent using the computer and Internet have arguably been the most important changes in the media landscape during the last two decades, both in the US and in most developed countries around the world. It is, therefore, not surprising that the rise of the new medium was accompanied by headline-grabbing predictions by academics, business analysts, and pundits about the future of the media. The consensus during the 1990's was that, in the lingo of the times, the "electronic superhighway" would lead to the demise of television. (See, for example, Negroponte 1995.)

The growth of this new medium - and the predictions about its impact on TV - were, of course, watched with some concern by the "traditional" media. However, proprietary research at NBC conducted in 1995 already showed that consumers saw television and the computer having mostly different functions and offering different rewards. Research using Nielsen TV data and PC Meter metrics later confirmed these initial findings (Coffey and Stipp, 1997). The conclusion from those early data that very few consumers would simply replace TV viewing with Internet based activities is still valid today, judging from the record amount of time still spent watching TV by Americans during recent years (Nielsen 2009).