Forrester Research has just released a study that gives a look over the past five years of the changes that have occurred in Internet usage among various groups. Much of the findings make sense but as always it’s the numbers and percentage increase / decreases that are of interest. For an executive summary of the report you can go here.
Some of the findings include:
- Broadband use continues to grow but is slowing as many of the US households that can afford the service now actually have broadband access to the Internet. The implications for video streaming and other high bandwidth needs are obvious.
- While the 18-29 year old set spends the most time online (although by just 2 hours per week over the 18-43 year old set) the type of usage varies greatly. The younger the Internet user the more the usage revolves around entertaining rather than informing them. All I will say to that is that it explains a lot regarding the general behavior of many types of folks and I will leave it at that.
- Social media is growing across all age groups:
Social networking isn’t just for Gen Yers anymore. Double-digit growth numbers for the use of online social networking sites proves that the phenomenon has moved well beyond the realm of college students. Just less than one-third of online consumers are on social networking sites monthly, up from only 15% in 2007. Where are these social networkers going? Sixty-eight percent indicate they visit Facebook weekly, while 59% say they visit MySpace. But sites like Eons and BOOMj.com are popping up specifically to address the social needs of older consumers.
- Forrester contends that overall the usage of the various media is steadying over the past 5 years with the largest change happening on the Internet. If you are the newspaper, radio or magazine business, though, the term ‘steadying’ may need to be replaced with the word ‘disconcerting’.
- Mobile’s coming out party should be any day now with the proliferation of smartphones and more affordable data plans. We’ve been saying this for years now but maybe, just maybe, its time. The growth is occurring and will likely continue to happen.
- The Internet is mostly an extension of what someone is / or does offline. If you watch a lot of TV offline you are either moving from the couch to the desktop or maybe you’re just too lazy and you are putting your laptop on your lap on the couch but guess what you are doing either way: watching TV. Sports people seek sports news online. Common sense? Maybe so but there are those who have preached that the Internet opens new worlds and new behaviors for people. This study shows – not so much.
There is more to the study and the devil is in the details as they say. As we all grow into our online personas and comfort zones it will be imperative for marketers to not get complacent and think that they have it all figured out. As Internet users know more about what they want from their online experience it will be critical for marketers to be able to pinpoint those activities. There is less experimentation with broader activities. People know what they like to do online and they go to do that rather than poking around aimlessly.
As we all know though, all it may take is the next ‘big thing’ to change the online and / or offline habits of any group of people. At that point what is considered conventional wisdom one day is yesterday’s news the next.
How do you stay on top of what your target markets are really doing? How do you get your information? Are the habits of the online community you need to know steadying or are they still figuring things out? How often do your sources ‘get it right’ and how often have they missed the mark completely?