Entertainment habits are changing with the Internet emerging as first choice stimulation for most.

A sizable 45.6 per cent of 18-54 year-olds today will turn to the Internet, rather than the TV, as first choice for home entertainment, a report from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) reveals.

The OPA surveyed 1,235 US respondents in the following age bands: 18-24 years; 25-34 years and 35-54 year olds. In a head-to-head comparison, online media compared very well with traditional entertainment formats.

Asked, "If you could only use two media in your life, which two would you use?", over 50 per cent (50.5 per cent) of 18-24 year-olds chose the Internet as their favourite choice. Just 28.5 per cent in that age group chose TV. 43.6 per cent of 25-34 year olds and 42.8 per cent of 35-54 year olds also chose the Internet. TV moved to be the general second choice.

Internet time becomes real-life

People are spending more time online too, for example: 52 per cent of 18-24 year olds agreed they spend more time using the Internet now than they did one year ago.

Interestingly, 35 per cent of respondents indicate that they spend less time playing video/PC games and 28 per cent say they spend less time watching television.

The Internet's strength is that it provides both information and fun. "No other media compares to the Internet when it comes to information and fun," the analysts said, adding, "Young people show clear preference for using the Internet as a primary source for news."

Traditional publishing moves second place

The Internet-based knowledge renaissance is clear: 97 per cent of the sample group believe the Internet us the same or better than magazines for finding information about products or music; and 83 per cent said reading a story online is the same or better than reading one in a newspaper.

"Consumers continue to move beyond purely functional uses of the Internet into more media-oriented activities, such as reading stories, looking at photos, and watching video," said Michael Zimbalist, president of the OPA. "These results show how receptive people of all ages are to the Internet as a medium and not just a tool."