It may seem like people are spending every waking hour in front of their computer screens, but according to Forrester Research, the amount of time that Americans spend online is leveling off.

For publishers hoping to grow their audience as user attention shifts online, that could spell trouble. But if you’re marketing well to your audience, it shouldn’t matter.

According to Forrester Research’s annual survey of Internet users average weekly Internet usage for Americans has held steady at 12 hours per week since last year.

Forrester surveyed 53,668 US and
Canadian households and individuals ages 18-and-older to find that the number of households reporting being
online has grown slightly more than 3% since last year, while
broadband adoption among Internet households grew slightly more than
6%. And while older users are using the Internet more often, younger users not replacing other media with internet usage. Newspapers and radio are getting slightly less attention this year, but television watching has remained steady with the average American watching 13 hours a week.

Generation Y users, ages 18 to 29, spend the most time online, logging
just over 19 hours per week on average. But those aged 30 to 43 are close behind with 17 hours per week average.

With the quantity of content online only increasing, traffic to many websites is down. So is hope lost for getting web surfers to use new websites?

Hardly. Forrester’s Jackie Rousseau-Anderson tells AdAge:

“Now people’s use is more defined. People who have been online awhile
understand how to use the internet sufficiently and can maximize the
time they have to spend on it. They generally know which sites they are
going to when they log in. For new people starting out, the
proliferation of website advertising (i.e., websites listed in
commercials, affiliated with brands, etc.) helps direct people to where
they want to go. Similarly, Google and other search engines have become
staples of internet use so instead of surfing around to find what
you’re looking for you can simply go to Google, type in your search
terms, and all the hard work is done.”

With web surfers getting more savvy about where they’re spending their time online, marketers have to similarly step up their efforts and pay attention to the audiences they are targeting.

Anderson thinks that search and word of mouth are the two best contributors to growing audience numbers online. But the most important way to grow users to a website is figuring out who your audience is, what they’re looking for and how you can deliver it to them. And as online services become more stable, marketers are realizing that both people’s offline and online habits are important to predicting their preferences:

“By looking at the complete consumer, cross-channel messaging will be
more effective. Since consumers don’t like in online and offline silos,
effective messaging will reach them across multiple points. In order to
create these effective messages marketers need to understand their
consumers across digital and non-digital channels.”