January 27, 2001

Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive signified their business objectives last month by agreeing to serve as each other’s exclusive, preferred provider of services to the lesbian and gay market. The most recent study conducted jointly by the two firms reveals climbing online and e-commerce activity by Internet users who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

The new study shows that over one-quarter (28%) of LGBT respondents conducted their banking transactions online in the last three months, as compared with 21% of non-gay web users. Similarly, a seven-percent gap exists between LGBT and non-gay respondents who took part in online auctions over the past three months (26% vs. 19% respectively), LGBT respondents are also slightly more likely to make online purchases for goods and services than their non-gay counterparts (63% vs. 59%).

Research last year by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs confirmed that gays and lesbians are "information-hungry" and disproportionately favor use of the Internet and online communication. In April 2000, one-quarter (25%) of LGBT respondents disclosed using the Internet more than 21 hours per week (excluding email) compared with 18% of non-gay Internet users. The latest survey, however, uncovered a remarkable jump – with 32% of LGBT Internet users now stating they use the Internet for more than 21 hours per week (apart from email), compared with a minor decline to 17% among non-gay users, also online more than 21 hours per week.

"We have long observed gay affinity for the web, and the numbers keep soaring," noted Wesley Combs, President of Witeck-Combs Communications. "The newest findings validate the power of the Internet to promote gay consumer spending and to transform the potential for e-commerce. The LGBT market appears to signal a bellwether – enabling gay households to find welcome, safety, convenience and service online."

These e-commerce findings were part of a larger study about consumer behavior and risk-taking attitudes of gays and lesbians, as well as of other adults. The latest Witeck-Combs / Harris Interactive research was conducted online between January 11 and 15 among 2,525 adults using the Harris Interactive online panel of respondents, from which 137 people (6% of the total sample) identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

According to David Krane, Senior Vice President of Harris Interactive, "These findings encourage us by tapping a meaningful cross-section of self-identified lesbians and gays online, and enabling us again to achieve a consistent 6% sample. This sample size mirrors our earlier online studies, and consistently exceeds other techniques, particularly telephone surveys. The confidentiality, convenience and relevance of online research for the LGBT community represent important new possibilities for all marketers."

On more intimate questions about risk-taking behaviors related to cigarettes and seat belts, the samples illustrate added divergence between gay and non-gay respondents. Nearly 36% percent of LGBT respondents signify they smoke now, compared with 27% of non-gay participants. A full twenty-five percent (25%) of LGBT smokers say they have not even tried to give up the habit, while 23% of non-gay smokers confess they had not tried to surrender either.

Ironically, LGBT smokers also reveal more direct knowledge about the harmful consequences of smoking. When asked if the LGBT smoker knew the risks of lung cancer, 98% (compared with 91% of non-gay smokers) replied affirmatively. When questions were asked about the possibility of heart disease (98% vs. 86%), and about "shortening their life," (96% vs. 89%) – LGBT smokers recorded significantly higher self-awareness of the dangers.

Seat belt usage, however, showed a stark contrast about risks. For example, when questioned about their seat belt use when riding in the front seat of a car, 85% of the LGBT sample stated that they use them "all the time," compared with 78% of the non-gay sample.

For more information at http://www.harrisinteractive.com

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