October 4, 2000

Olympics Online: Old Media Beat the New Media

Note: The following was sent out as an informal email. Please contact the Project for further details.

WASHINGTON–The Pew Internet & American Life Project is releasing a report today that looks at how American Internet users experienced the Olympics online. In a nutshell, the Internet was a very minor player in people”s experience of the Games. TV was far and away the preferred source of news and information about the Olympics.

Some of our key findings:

  • 58% of American adults got some sort of information about the Olympics on a typical day when the Games were taking place. Less than 4% of them got information online about the Olympics.
  • In a head-to-head matchup, the Americans who got Olympics information online still think TV covered the Games better by a 2-to-1 margin — 59% of this subgroup thought TV covered the Olympics better vs. 24% who thought the Internet covered the Games better.
  • Just 17% of Americans with Internet access got any kind of information about the Games online while they were taking place.We also found that there was no overall surge of traffic on the Internet related people getting sports news during the Games and that most users were not anxious to get lots of extra information about athletes or competitions online. They got news of the results (usually by chancing upon it) and that was pretty much it.

    Our conclusion: There was a lot of talk that the Internet would emerge during the games as a rival to TV, but it wasn’t even close. The heavy restrictions on the kind of content that Web sites could post no doubt played a role in this. But it is also clear that the Internet has a considerable distance to go before it becomes as powerful and entertaining a medium as TV for an event of the magnitude of the Olympics. At best, the Internet provided a supplemental information source for a modest fraction of online Americans.

    There are also some interesting gender-gap figures about what kind of sports interested men and women online.