There is a great deal of speculation about the nature of Internet use. Everyone knows the Web is developing at unprecedented speed, yet there is a lack of information about who Net users are and how marketers can reach them.
But the UK’s largest media study – the Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar) survey run jointly by commercial radio and the BBC – has this year for the first time included questions on Net use for its national sample of more than 130,000 people.
Since January 10, Rajar has been asking listeners and non-listeners alike how often they use the Net, and where. The latest Rajar release for the three months to March 26 is based on a sample of more than 33,000 people. The data allows Rajar to take a closer look at Net users than surveys that rely on samples of 1,000 to 2,000 people.
The survey reveals 24 per cent of adults use the Net once a week or more, which is about 11.6 million people. And there is a strong bias towards upmarket adults (see table). This is so strong that it suggests Net use is a case of the “haves” versus the “have-nots”. The skew is far greater than for, say, broadsheet newspaper readers.
The implications for marketers targeting mid-market audiences are immense: Web-based responses are likely to differ widely between the B, C1 and C2 social groups.
The Rajar sample is so large (it delivered more than 7,000 regular Net users in this wave of research) that it is possible to look within each of these class groups for additional information – for instance, the sample of As is made up of nearly 600 respondents.
The survey can also examine usage by age. For example, it can compare levels of regular Net use for pairs of school year groups – such as ten- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 13-year-olds. This analysis shows a clear bias towards younger age groups.
In fact, the usage curve does not begin to tail off dramatically until the 50-plus age group – older than might be suspected. Variations in the number of Net users should be gauged against the number of adults in that age group. There are more elderly people in the population, so the decline in usage is more pronounced than it appears.
Some respondents use the Net in more than one place, so the numbers cannot be added together to make a total.
Men are more likely to be Net users. Both sexes prefer to go online at home rather than work.
Rajar has compiled a detailed analysis of how often people use the Net, including light users who only log on once a month.
Occasional users are in the minority. In the core 15- to 44-year-old group, there are nearly 5.4 million people using the Net every day or most days, compared with less than 3 million who use it once a week.
Rajar offers specific detail on the level of radio listening among Net users – where, when and which stations they listen to, and for how long.
Net users are disproportionately likely to be commercial radio listeners: about 80 per cent of all the user groups listen every week, rising to 90 per cent over four weeks. This is significantly higher than the adult average.
Further details can be accessed by Rajar subscribers at www.rajar.co.uk.
Factfile is edited by Julia Day. Jonathan Keen, media planning consultant at the Radio Advertising Bureau, contributed