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The current trend of increasing instant messaging (IM) use and its potential growth motivate this study. It offers a novel exploration of users' preferences for IM in the context of the use of other traditional and new communication media: face-to-face, telephone, email, and short messaging service (SMS) in two distinct cultures: Australia and China. It examines the impact of demographics, media experience, media richness perception, and national culture on media preferences. Our results, based on a student survey conducted in the two countries, show that women prefer IM for communication activities that require more attention and personal presence and prefer email for communication activities that require less personal presence. Communication technology experience may predict the adoption of new technology, such as IM and SMS, but has no effect on media that are already widely adopted, such as email. Email was clustered with face-to-face and telephone as the most preferred media for any communication activity, while IM and SMS clustered together and were the least preferred media for communication. After controlling for demographics and media experience, we found significant cultural differences in IM, telephone, and email preferences. Chinese preferred to use IM and telephone, while Australians preferred to use email. The cultural impact on technology use is persistent.