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Internet use catches up to TV in the U.S.

Americans are now spending as much time online as they are spending in front of their televisions, according to a new study by Forrester Research and reported by the New York Times on Monday.

Americans are spending about 13 hours per week watching TV offline and another 13 hours on the Internet, the study finds. Those 30 and younger have for a while been spending more time online than watching TV. But now, those aged 31 to 44 — who formerly spent more time in front of the tube — are devoting more hours to the Internet at the expense of TV time. Baby boomers (45 to 54) are spending about the same amount of time with both mediums. The Internet’s popularity continues to taper off in the older age brackets, with those over 66 spending about eight hours per week online.

The Internet’s popularity has risen sharply over the past five years with usage growing by 121 percent, according to the study. TV usage has remained about the same over the same period of time.

A couple of things are directly contributing the shift. The rise of video streaming continues to attract larger audiences to the Internet as a source for entertainment programming. Thirty-three percent of adults say that they stream video online. That’s up from 18 percent in a 2007 survey.

Smartphones equipped with Internet capabilities have also certainly helped to fuel the Internet’s popularity as opportunities for Web access increase with the spread of mobile browsers. A Pew study recently revealed that about 40 percent of Americans connect to the Internet through a mobile device.

Online shopping has become a big attraction for Americans. In a 2007 survey, a bit over 33 percent admitted to being Internet shoppers. Compare that to 60 percent who say they regularly shop online in this year’s survey.

With Internet time increasing and TV time remaining roughly the same, it’s print newspapers, print magazines, and offline radio that are the big losers when it comes to American’s media consumption.