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Consumers Continue to Spend More Time Online
How does the increased use of the Internet affect the world we live in? Britons are spending more and more time online. According to a report from uSwitch.com, a large audience spends up to 30 hours a week on the Internet.
The report showed that we spend an average of 2 hours a day on the Internet for work and 3 hours for leisure, and about 3 hours a day on the weekend surfing for entertainment. Internet use is increasing among younger age groups, with 18- to 24-year-olds spending 45 hours a week online.
The way we access the Internet is also changing. The growth of mobile internet thanks to more sophisticated 3G mobile phones is increasing the amount of time spent online. Users have additional options to access the web from handheld devices wherever they are.
Faster connection speeds and greater broadband coverage across Britain means that home broadband usage also continues to grow. Ofcom’s research into broadband speeds in Britain found that average UK broadband speeds were 4.1 Mbit/s in April 2009 and that 70% of broadband users receive average speeds of more than 2 Mbit/s. Increased connection speeds allow faster loading times and the ability to stream higher quality content such as HD videos.
Impact on advertising spend
Increasing time spent online has an impact on where advertisers spend their marketing budgets. Online ad spending has now surpassed television. More and more well-known brand advertisers are realizing the potential of online as a means of reaching a mass audience.
Big brands like Kellogg’s are waking up to the potential audience online can bring. Kellogg’s spent £58 million on television advertising from August 2008 to July 2009 and spent just over £300,000 online. However, this is about to change with the appointment of dedicated digital positions to come up with strategy for 2010. This suggests that major advertisers are now attuned to the benefits that online customer communication can bring to a brand.
Kellogg’s seemingly late adoption of internet advertising investment comes as no surprise as typical FMCG brands find it difficult to navigate the digital landscape. That’s because they didn’t understand how it could fit into their overall marketing strategy. But accepting the majority of the UK moving online means advertisers need to be where the audience is.
Convergence of TV and online
More and more people in the UK are consuming TV online. Catch-up TV became popular in 2008 with BBC iPlayer and 4OD. Figures from Ofcom’s latest annual communications market report show that 23% of households say they watch programs online. This increases to 33% for 15-24 year olds.
There are two ways to watch TV online via streaming or downloading. If you stream, you watch directly from the transmitter, like traditional TV. Programs can often be paused and rewound (unless they are “live”), but they are not saved to your computer. Downloaded programs are stored on your computer’s hard drive and can be watched whenever you want, although many have Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection that locks them after a set period of time and prevents you from watching them again.
Is TV consumption likely to move online only? This may happen in the future if more programs are broadcast online only, as in the case of England’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, which was broadcast online for the first time in early October 2009 without television coverage. The cost to watch the match started at £4.99 before 8 October and rose to £11.99 on the day of the match.
General consumer feedback was that it was too expensive for a single match and alienated pub-goers and fans with slow internet connections. But there will undoubtedly be more events in the future that are not televised and are only shown via the Internet.
The growth of social networks
Social media is huge in the UK, with Facebook the clear market leader, accounting for 1 in 7 page views in the UK. Facebook is the second most visited website in the UK after Google, but is the clear leader in pageviews thanks to the stickiness of the site, with more pageviews than Google, eBay UK and YouTube combined.
Facebook’s success is staggering with an 86% increase in traffic over the past 12 months. Despite Twitter’s recent loss of press coverage, it is still the most popular social network, accounting for nearly half of all social media activity that takes place online, with no signs of slowing down. Social media isn’t just for young audiences, with the fastest growth occurring among 35-54 year olds during the first quarter of this year.
Children and their time online
Most children are completely comfortable using the Internet because they have not known the world without it. A report by the London School of Economics revealed the following internet usage by 9-19 year olds. Children are very comfortable using the Internet, 40% use the Internet daily. Although time spent online tends to be shorter than adults, 19% spend up to 10% and 48% spend 10 minutes to an hour. The activities they do online, ranked by popularity, are:
- Get information about things other than schoolwork (94%)
- Help with schoolwork (90%)
- Sending and receiving emails (72%)
- Play games online (70%)
- Sending and receiving instant messages (55%)
- Download music (45%)
- Seek career and further education information (44%)
- Find information and shop online (40%)
- Read news (26%)
- Chat rooms (21%)
I have no doubt that internet usage will continue to grow over time. Our kids have been using it from a young age, creating a generation of people who are comfortable doing various tasks online from entertainment to shopping. Continued improvements in Internet access lower barriers to entry and ever-increasing technologies that use the Internet to make certain tasks easier and faster to facilitate and speed up will all help to continue the Internet’s growing expansion.
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