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Time Rich or Time Poor? March 19, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in Consumer internet, Ecommerce, Internet, Lead gen, Search, social networks, start-up, startups, user generated content, VC, Venture Capital, video, web 2.0.
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Broadly speaking, there are two types of internet users, Time Rich (more time than money) and Time Poor (more money than time). I’d speculate that many of the readers of this blog fall into the Time Poor category, but the vast majority of internet users fall into the Time Rich category. If you’re starting a new internet company, its important to know who your audience is, and to make sure that you don’t let your own experience and that of other Time Poor people guide you wrong.

Time Poor

Time Poor people use the internet to get things done. They are very task focused, and their favorite websites help them use their precious time more efficiently. Great examples of websites built for the Time Poor include search engines, first gen comparison shopping engines (trying to find the lowest price as quickly as possible), ecommerce and lead gen sites where the purchase is more functional than emotional, and many of the “social news” websites that filter the news for you.

If you’re building a website for the Time Poor, your focus should be to minimize their time and pages on site. As a result, business models around e-commerce, CPC and lead generation are good matches for these sort of site – it aligns both user and site around getting to a transaction as quicly as possible. Depending on what you do, you may even be able to charge a subscription as well.

Time Rich

Time Rich people use the internet to kill some time. They are bored. They are willing to be diverted and entertained. Great examples of websites built for the Time Rich include broad based social networks, targeted social networks, picture sharing sites, anything celebrity related, anything sports related, social shopping sites (recreational shopping), social discovery websites that suggest new sites to you, all video websites and causal games websites.

If you’re building a website for the Time Rich, your focus should be to give them options to explore. Links density is the name of the game – more links means more clicks. Suggest a next click at any natural pause point, and keep people clicking within your site. Stimulate communication and community – it keeps people engaged and coming back. Give people reasons to bookmark you and come back often with fresh content and evergreen favorites.

You’ll likely monetize through advertising – sponsorship and CPM as well as CPC. Subscriptions may work for you too if you have certain features held back. If the products you sell are bought spontaneously, then ecommerce may also work for you. But don’t fall into the trap of creating extra pageviews for your own benefit and not that of your user (e.g. by splitting articles across multiple pages, or creating extra steps in a process to edit a profile page) as your users will wise up to your game soon enough. Time Rich does not mean unsophisticated. Your users spend enough time on the internet, and on your competitors sites, to know what are the best practices.

Know your audience when you build your site, keep the target clear, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting their needs.

UPDATE: New visitors, if you liked this post try the second most popular post, Three Ways to Build an Online Media Business to $50m in revenue

Comments»

1. Giacomo Vacca - March 19, 2007

I’ve found this article very useful (I’m a Time Poor person, btw). I’d like to know your opinion about the different approach service provider should take in offering personal tools like GMail and social networking sites like MySpace…
Regards,

2. junger - March 19, 2007

Interesting points. I agree with your general premise, but there’s a middle ground that you haven’t covered – time neutral (maybe?). Some of us spend all day online because we work online, and part of the job is staying in touch with online communities and online news. My RSS reader is way over stuffed, but as part of my day I have to make sure I get to as many as I can and find as much relevant content as possible.

3. Jay Gould’s Blog » Become Time Rich & Time Poor - March 19, 2007

[…] Liew wrote an interesting post today on the differences between “time rich” and “time poor” internet users, and how you should shape your website accordingly based on the type of Internet […]

4. Computer Guru - March 19, 2007

Your descriptions of the two types are fairly spot-on, but I have to disagree: it has nothing to do with money.

I definitely don’t consider my self rich or well-to-do. I’m “time poor” though because there is just too much to do and too little time to do it. It has nothing to do with too much or too little time than money – there is no real relationship.

5. Michael - March 19, 2007

I think this is the thesis of the Books by Jeff and Bryan Eisenberg. But well well stated above.

6. Jeff - March 19, 2007

I’d say i’m a bit of both , I used it alot for youtube to decompressed my stress after blogging ;)

7. Jeffrey Eisenberg - March 19, 2007

This is really insightful as are all marketing conversations that start with the perspective of your audience. My concern is that all of us are at times “time rich” or “time poor”. It’s not simply a type of person, it’s a buying modality. All of us alternate between these modes. Every marketing interaction planned with Persuasion Architecture starts by analyzing every possible buying modality likely to be encountered. We then predict a constellation of clicks for our personas and optimize against our prediction. Sometimes the prediction is wrong, very often that is when “time poor” is the assumption.

8. jeremyliew - March 19, 2007

Computer Guru – on reflection I agree with your point and have amended the post accordingly.

Michael (and Jeff and Bryan), I am not familiar with the book – can you pleasae post the title in comments and perhaps a link to where it can be bought?

Giacomo – my guess is that webmail is designed for the time poor, and social networks for the time rich. What do you think?

9. Jeffrey Eisenberg - March 19, 2007

Micheal is referring to “Call To Action” and “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark?” by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. Both were NY Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers so any bookstore, especially online, will have them. We wrote them in reverse order, “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark?” is the strategy book and “Call To Action” is more tactical.

10. Don - March 19, 2007

I don’t have time to read this. ;-)

11. John - March 19, 2007

I also respect the need to begin website design with the intended audience in mind. However, the over simplification of “time rich & time poor” labels could really mislead website development. I am most productive in the a.m.; Yet while searching for specific info (time poor mode) in the a.m., I often note items of interest and later revisit a site in a much more ‘time rich’ mode in the p.m. Same customer, different visit, different mode. I’m in the throes of redesigning our organization’s website and just finished reading ‘Waiting for Your Cat to Bark’ by the Eisenbergs. I think their approach more clearly defines and targets actual customers within our niche.

12. Ron - March 19, 2007

Hmm..interesting post.

I tend to think that it’s probably important not to just focus on those of us who are “time poor” but spend lots of time online at work, but also, those who go from time poor during the day, to “time rich” as we don’t have kids or anything else to constraint us from days of lounging around on the web for hours at a time after work or on weekends.

I think it depends largely on what one does and how one views the web, whether as a communication tool or as a necessity that’s central to their life.

13. Hashim - March 19, 2007

I switch from a Time poor person at work to a Time rich person at home.

Execellent article. I’ve been thinking about Attention and how to manage it for some time. I never thought about changing my website targeting based on other’s attention.

14. lawrence coburn - March 19, 2007

The conflict for the vast majority of user generated content sites is that the small percentage of folks who contribute are time rich, and the much larger percentage of folks who browse, click on ads, generate affiliate $ are time poor.

So who do you make your website for? I say the contributors.

15. Jeffrey Eisenberg - March 19, 2007

Lawrence, aren’t you concerned with placing everyone who contributes into one bucket as if they all had the same motivations? Buying modalities are more complex than that.

16. HH - March 19, 2007

i agree with your maxim, but disagree with your solution. there are two types of users, yes, but you should design your site to satisfy both of them.

17. Stop Reading Garbage and Wasting Your Time - March 19, 2007

[…] There are faceoffs, there are 2000 bloggers, and tons of other stuff out there taking up your time. There are pointless catfights, blogger drama, and soap opera-esque MyBlogLog v. Shoemoney type of […]

18. Keith Chiu » Blog Archive » Time Rich / Time Poor / Time None - March 19, 2007

[…] Broadly speaking, there are two types of internet users, Time Rich (more time than money) and Time Poor (more money than time). I’d speculate that many of the readers of this blog fall into the Time Poor category, but the vast majority of internet users fall into the Time Rich category. If you’re starting a new internet company, its important to know who your audience is, and to make sure that you don’t let your own experience and that of other Time Poor people guide you wrong. […]

19. John Furrier - March 19, 2007

Nice post. I didn’t know that Lightspeed was this savvy in media 2.0 deals. Attention is the key to success in any venture and your advice is a must have for all entrepreneurs.

20. VC Surprise: Lightspeed Makes a Great Post « John Furrier - March 19, 2007

[…] Surprise: Lightspeed Makes a Great Post Here is a great post by Lightspeed VC Jeremy Liew.  I have to say that I was really surprised.  I thought Lightspeed was an infrastructure firm.  […]

21. Television Quelled Boredom First - March 19, 2007

what was true of tv, is true of the internet – time will be used according to impending deadlines. Those with little time will use it less and more focused on what they want to do. And those with much time will use it more and on less focused items, generally bouncing around from site to site. I say people ‘time rich’ will visit more sites more frequently in their session, then the ‘time poor’ who will visit a few site but stay their longer.

22. Time Rich and Time Poor: The Two Types of Internet Users « News Coctail - March 19, 2007

[…] Poor: The Two Types of Internet Users Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 8:52 pm Time Rich and Time Poor: The Two Types of Internet Users Time Poor people use the internet to get things done. Time Rich people use the internet to kill […]

23. Jeffrey Eisenberg - March 19, 2007

Television isn’t very good to compare as an analagous media channel. Television is a passive media that depends on interruption for its power. Internet is a medium that depends on participants voluntary interaction where the reader decides on a click by click basis whether or not to continue. We call this participatory momentum. It’s why we NEVER plan pages. We plan for actions and events. That is why several web analytic companies are adopting or PAXML (Persuasion Architecture XML) to account for complex Web 2.0 interactions. Otherwise, if you aren’t predicting the clicks and optimizing them based on the relationship to the plan you are just reading tea leaves.

24. John Dodds - March 19, 2007

It seems a somewhat arrogant statement to suggest that we are Time Poor while non-readers are Time Rich. It implies that what we do is more worthwhile than what they do. Everyone has 24 hours in a day and fills them as they choose – we may do so in different ways but the vast majority of people would describe themselves (if they thought about it) as generally Time Poor.

Indeed, I would argue that you fall into your own trap when you describe, for example, anything sports-related as time-killing because the explosion of users around sports betting sites (and their associated research sites) would not, I venture, describe their use as time-killing.

It’s always risky to make value judgements about people’s motivations and, as others have written above, we all experience both states at different times in our days (and if we don’t we really need to take a hard look at our lives). Thus the users of sites will have a use for both elements.

As you rightly say, when transactions are involved, we should facilitate them, but that does not exclude the same site having options to explore. The key unsurprisingly is to supply users with efficient functionality whether that functionality is goal-oriented or time-killing. After all, if you can facilitate a user voluntarily to hang around your site when they have the time, that can only be good for you.

Make sure it works seamlessly and then let your users decide how they choose to use it.

25. jeremyliew - March 19, 2007

John,

Perhaps characterizing the motivation of the “Time Rich” as “for entertainment” is a better characterization than “to kill time” .

26. Jeffrey Eisenberg - March 19, 2007

I’m time rich when I’m early in the buying process of a complex sale. I invest my time to explore my options and understand the implications of any decisions I make. Alternately, I may make a several thousand dollar decision in minutes. So am I time rich or tiem poor? It simply depends. That is why scenario planning is so critical, beacuase it captures the contextual and temporal elements of the buying process as it intersects with a company’s selling process.

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30. Billings Van Harris - March 20, 2007

Excellent article. I began to see a similar trend in the 90’s when I was an AV tech at a large ‘business’ hotel. I noticed that the morning newspaper in front of each room was USA today, I had never heard of it, so I decided to read one. The newspaper was in fact a very concise, and informative paper, with focused articles. The average ‘daily’ newspaper compared to this was bland, general, and never really went into depth on the important topics. All I knew was, there had to be a difference in the readership demographics, and it had to do with time, wasting time, or efficiently using time. The internet is simply a new form of media using similar strategies. I read blogs such as this to become enlightened and educated, other may watch someone fall out their chair on youtube and laugh all day about, but its value, as far as inciting financial gains, would probably be negative. Not only are most youtube videos moronic, but if time is money, the time wasted is more harmful than anything.

31. John Dodds - March 20, 2007

Jeremy

Agreed – “killing time” was what popped into my head but doesn’t capture the true motivation. However, in the case of my example of sports betting sites, entertainment is not the sole or perhaps even the major incentive.

My basic point remains – usability is about making it efficacious for users to do what they wish to do, but should not leak over into determining what your users don’t want to do.

32. PageRankWhore » Blog Archive » LSVP Blog: Time Rich v. Time Poor. - March 20, 2007

[…] out a great user-base distinction between those that are Time Rich and those that are Time Poor here. As someone who has produced/run sites for both audiences, it was interesting to see appropriate […]

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36. Daniel Waisberg - March 22, 2007

I believe there is one very important group that you have missed: Time creative. They are the ones that are not looking to solve problems and not killing time, they are looking for new ideas, they are uniting thoughts, they are designing the future.

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40. Amisare Waswere - March 24, 2007

According to Jeremy, when (at the time you are) using internet, you are either time rich or time poor.

Time poor implies you have time constraints (aptly summarized by Computer Guru as “too much to do and too little time to do it”) and are task focused.

Time rich implies you are not constraint by time (have time to kill), and are looking for entertainment and willing to be diverted.

A categorization goes, the set of time rich/time poor users represents a complete set of all members of people using the internet at any point in time i.e. there is no gaps or overlaps (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive MECE). It is therefore not necessary to introduce another subset of time neutral (junger). The fact that junger RSS his subject of interest would imply he is (generally) time poor. To introduce another subset (group) of time creative (Daniel Waisberg) into the set would not be MECE.

Time rich (poor) is not invariant; it changes with the time of the day (John, Ron), the location, at work /home (Hashim) and indeed “alternates between modes” (Jeffrey Eisenberg), but this does not invalidate the categorization.

This categorization may indicate the proclivity of internet users. Taking it in this light, is this categorization useful? Jeremy’s conclusion in the last paragraph speaks for itself: Know your audience when you build your site, keep the target clear, and you’ll have a better chance of meeting their needs.

You can’t argue with that.

Amisare

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43. Mark from Bloglyne.com - March 27, 2007

Really interesting perspective here – not sure you are saying anything unique about the two categories of people, but the recommendations regarding which type of sites apply to the two different types is interesting.

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50. sporting index - October 23, 2007

I often find my self in the time Rich category. its a sad life I lead. lol.

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52. Whatever-ishere - November 21, 2007

thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…

53. Elsparepærer - January 17, 2008

Useful article!

54. AZMike - January 28, 2008

I believe the context of where these titles are used determines their virtues. Time Rich is usually centered around more time than money, as time poor is usually centered around busy people (busy making money).

This being a vc site, I think anyone that reads this far down is looking for that little tweak that might make them “Time Poor”.

55. Allen - April 15, 2008

I definately fall into the “Tme Poor” category. However, many of my clients fall into both categories. To that end, as an online marketer I find outsourcing helps me to be able to reach both types of customers. I have found that PPC and Article Marketing have helped increase my business by being able to reach both types.

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60. Luke Alexander - August 24, 2009

I do agree with your descriptions and observation on both types. Thanks for allowing to understand and re evaluate ourselves on this.

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