Annenberg Report Packages 13 Years of Research on How Americans and Marketers Intersect Online

Thirteen years of research into how Americans, marketers, and political consultants intersect online is now available in a single academic resource.

Americans, Marketers, and the Internet: 1999 – 2012 has just been made available on the Social Science Research Network. The report is a compendium of over a half-dozen large-scale surveys and research projects led by Joseph Turow, Ph.D., the Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and colleagues from Annenberg, the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and the University of California at Berkeley.

The compendium covers analysis of what Americans know about online marketing, what Americans know marketers know about them, and how Americans feel about marketers knowing so much about them simply because of their web browsing.

Concerns about what happens when Americans go on the web have been around since researchers at the University of Illinois released the very first web browser in 1993. Turow’s 1999 study was probably the first national academic survey that explored parents’ opinions on the topic.  Responding to the report’s release, in May 1999 CBS News’ Charles Osgood penned this poem for the Osgood Files radio program:

Whether or not we approve of the net
It’s here to stay and you can bet
That parents will wonder what their kids will find
And what it will do to their spirit and mind.
How much is too much ... what can they rely on?
And what dangers should they be keeping their eye on?
A few microchips and electronic wiring
Can bring something uplifting ... even inspiring.
Or drag him destructively down in the mud.
Which a parent would want to nip in the bud.
When your kid is on line ... it may be just fine ...
But how can a parent decide?
Is he in there with Dr. Jekyll?
Or is he with Mr. Hyde?

The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde reference grew out of the very first report which noted tensions in press coverage about the internet. 

Additional highlights from the reports include:

  • From 2000: Kids are more likely than their parents to approve giving sensitive personal family information to commercial web sites.
  • From 2005: Most adults are aware that companies can follow their behavior online, and they admit to feeling vulnerable about it.
  • From 2009: There is support for the idea of a law that would require websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual if requested to do so.
  • From 2012: A majority of Americans say they would be less likely to vote for a political candidate who conducts political advertising tailored by their web browsing, even if the candidate is someone they might support.

The full report can be accessed at the SSRN web site: