Despite the hype being given to the Internet, nearly one in ten members of the UK adult population are still unaware of its existence.
However, use of the Internet is growing at a fantastic rate – among both regulars and those accessing it for the first time. But it is still not a universal medium in the UK – only eight per cent of the adult population are regular users.
It seems the Internet is changing the behaviour and media consumption of its users, rather than replacing traditional forms of communication and advertising channels.
Internet users seem happy to indulge in Internet advertising, not only through following banner advertising links, but also in their use of e-mailing lists and push technology, drawn out by the fact that more than a third of them (36 per cent) have purchased products or services they have seen advertised on the Internet.
Given that the profile of users – young, male and affluent– represents a group normally very difficult to sell to with traditional media, the Net demonstrates a huge potential commercial value.
From a sample of 2,085 adults aged over 15, 92 per cent are now aware of the Internet, compared with 68 per cent in 1995. Seventeen per cent have accessed the Internet at some time, accounting for 8 million adults, compared with 13 per cent, or 6 million adults in 1996.
People who have accessed the Internet tend to be young, male white-collar workers. The majority of users, at 38 per cent, are under 24-years-old, 26 per cent are 25 to 34, 20 per cent are 35 to 44 and 15 per cent are over 45 years of age.
Thirteen per cent of those who have accessed the Internet use it daily; nine per cent every three days; ten per cent weekly; five per cent fortnightly; nine per cent monthly; 31 per cent less often; 21 per cent never. Eight per cent, or 3.8 million, access the Internet once a month or more, compared with 2.7 million (six per cent) last year.
Growth is particularly noticeable amongst the C1 and C2 social grades, and among 15 to 24 year-olds, particularly in the South-east, East Anglia and the Midlands. Those with Web access in their homes number 2.4 million and a further 1.5 million predict they will have access within the next six months. Seven per cent say they will gain access at work in the next six months added to the five per cent (2.4 million) who already do.
Male regular users outnumber females by almost 3:1, while students make up more than a quarter of current users. Regular users tend to be more affluent, with an average income of 31,000, compared with the national average of 17,500.
From a sample of 200 current Internet users, 63 per cent gain access from home, 39 per cent at work, 28 per cent at college, two per cent at a friend’s house, three per cent at a cyber café and one per cent somewhere else. At the office, there are six users per terminal on average.
Internet users stay online for an average of 7.75 hours per week. Male users’ average is eight hours per week and 25 to 44 year-olds nine hours. Of those 7.75 hours spent online, 58 per cent visit for work or academic reasons, 42 per cent for leisure and personal reasons.
Media consumption patterns and behaviour of the sample of 200 seem to be changing as 32 per cent say they watch less TV now they are on-line, and 21 per cent spend less time watching videos.
Probably because of communicating by e-mail, 24 per cent use the telephone less often. Fewer magazines are read by 14 per cent, although 11 per cent say they read more now they are connected.
There are more conflicting responses as 12 per cent say they listen to the radio more than before, while eight per cent listen less. Friendships get a boost as 11 per cent say they spend more time socialising now they are online. Computers are used for more non-lnternet related activities by 27 per cent, while 15 per cent use their computer less.
An average of 19 e-mail messages are sent each week by regular users, moving up to 37 a week at work. E-mails received each week number 53, 18 per cent of which are regarded as unsolicited “junk” messages, but 38 per cent have signed up to e-mail lists.
From a prompted statement, 62 per cent responded that advertising on the Internet was beneficial, while 33 per cent said it was of little use.
Only 24 per cent of users are concerned about the amount of advertising on the Internet, while 73 per cent are not very or not at all concerned. The main source of concern expressed was that it slows the system down, swamps relevant information and is generally distracting. Over half the users (55 per cent) have clicked onto an Internet banner advertisement but only 34 per cent of women have done so.
Regular users look at an average of about 24 per cent of banner ads, while 45 per cent have never clicked onto one. The types of banner advertising of most interest are software, records/CDs and advertisements for travel or holiday tickets.
Within the past six months, eight per cent have made purchases through e-mail or the Net, while 31 per cent have made a purchase through the Internet at some time.
Of users with access at the office, 83 per cent of them work for companies who have a public Website.
Attitudes to the Internet are generally positive with 84 per cent of regular users saying they are in some way satisfied (either “very” or “fairly”) with the relevance of the information available; 75 per cent with the cost of use; 71 per cent with the ease of finding the information; 70 per cent with the speed of access; 63 per cent with the security of information and 51 per cent with the speed of download.
Only 12 per cent of users say that they have caught a virus from the Internet.
See New Media, page 34