21 public relations planning insights from Ofcom Media Use and Attitudes report
Ofcom’s latest report should be part of your marketing, media or public relations planning armoury. UK consumers increasingly use only a handful of apps or websites as a gateway to the internet yet use a broad range of devices and applications to communicate depending on age and socio-economic group.
These are the headlines from the 2016 Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report published by Ofcom.
- Internet gatekeepers - internet usage is maturing with a significant increase in the proportion of internet users saying that they only use apps or websites that they have used before. Amazon, Facebook, Google, and YouTube have become gatekeepers to the internet.
- Media devices - no surprise, but we’re using a range of devices to access the internet. Smartphones and tablets are replacing laptops and personal computers for internet browsing.
- Broad range of user behaviour – 25 years ago everyone sent letters or used a landline to communicate. Now there is a wide variety of apps and devices that we use to communicate depending on age and socio-economic group.
The 200+ page document, available as a free download from the Ofcom website (opens as a PDF), reports on the attitudes and behaviours of UK consumers to media, devices and the internet by age, gender and socio-economic group.
I’ve crunched through the executive summary to pull out some of the key information related to public relations planning across creative, content, and media.
Internet take-up and use
- Almost nine in ten UK adults say they use the internet, on any device, in any location - two-thirds (66%) of adults use the internet both at home and elsewhere, while one in five (18%) use it just at home and 4% use it only outside the home.
- Smartphones are replacing computers for internet use - two-thirds (65%) of all adults use a smartphone to go online; up by four percentage points since 2014. Of those who only use devices other than computers to go online, 78% use a smartphone, while 6% of all adults only use a smartphone, and no other device, to go online (up by three percentage points since 2014).
Volume of internet use
- There has been no change in the self-reported volume of internet use per week - UK adults spend an average of 21.6 hours online each week, which is unchanged since 2014.
- Since 2014, internet users are now more likely to say that in most weeks they only use websites or apps that they have used before - one in five (21%) internet users say they use lots of websites or apps that they haven’t used before, a decrease of four percentage points since 2014.
Media device take-up, use and affinity
- Smartphones are the preferred device for five out of nine online activities - internet users are more likely to say that they use a smartphone (rather than any other device) for social media, listening to streamed music, watching short video clips, looking at news websites or apps, and surfing or browsing online.
- Mobile phone use has remained relatively stable since 2010 but smartphone use has increased since 2014 - nine in ten adults (90%) use a mobile phone, unchanged since 2010 (91%).
- Communication and content creation are the types of activity undertaken at least weekly by the majority of mobile phone users - unsurprisingly, nearly all (96%) mobile users use their device for communication, while just under six in ten (59%) use it for content creation (which can include taking photos or videos).
- Seven in ten adults say they use apps, and the majority use them on smartphones - while seven in ten adults (70%) use any device, the majority use them on smartphones (57%), while 27% use them on tablets, and 21% on laptops or netbooks.
- Just under half of internet users watch video clips online at least weekly - four in five internet users (78%) have ever watched a short video clip online, with around half (48%) doing so weekly, an increase of nine percentage points since 2014.
- Internet users are more likely than in 2014 to listen to radio stations online - just under half (47%) of internet users ever listen to radio stations online, while 22% do so at least weekly.
- Over half of mobile phone users have ever listened to music stored on their phone - in 2015, 56% of mobile phone users have ever listened to music stored on their mobile phone, and four in ten (40%) mobile phone users do this at least weekly, both unchanged since 2014.
Communicating or participating (including social media)
- The majority of internet users send or receive email, use instant messaging and look at social media sites or apps at least weekly - the most popular activities online are sending and receiving email (93%), using instant messaging (78%), looking at social media sites or apps (76%) and uploading or sharing videos or photos (70%).
- Younger age groups are more likely to undertake most of the communication activities - 16-24s are more likely than all internet users to undertake six of the seven communication activities (the only exception is sending or receiving email), while over-55s tend to be less likely to undertake all of the activities.
- More than seven in ten internet users have a social media profile, which are more likely to be on Facebook than any other social media site - more than nine in ten (95%) social media users say they use Facebook, with 43% saying they only use Facebook and 84% saying their main profile is on Facebook.
Browsing, searching for content and accessing news
- Search engines are by far the most popular source when looking for information online, and are the only source used by a majority of internet users - more than nine in ten (92%) internet users said they used search engines when looking for information online, a decrease of three percentage points since 2014.
- Reading online reviews is more popular than posting online comments - while more than three-quarters of internet users (78%) ever read reviews, only four in ten (39%) have ever written them.
Buying stuff online
- The majority of internet users say they have bought things, banked or paid bills online - just over eight in ten (82%) internet users say they have ever bought something online, while almost seven in ten (67%) say they have ever banked or paid bills online.
Accessing public services
- Internet users are more likely than in 2014 to say they go online to find out about news/ events in their local area, or to sign online petitions - nearly three-quarters (73%) of internet users ever go online to find out about news/events in their local area; an increase of four percentage points since 2014.
- A third of internet users have never completed any government processes online - the reasons for not carrying out government processes online are varied: a quarter (26%) say they don’t complete government processes online because they prefer to fill in a form or use post.
Understanding search engine results
- One in five users think that if a website is listed on a search engine results page, it must contain accurate and unbiased information - when asked about the links to websites that appear on a search engine’s results pages, one in five search engine users (18%) say that if a website is listed by the search engine, it must be accurate/unbiased.
- Half of search engine users could not identify sponsored links in search engine results - when shown sponsored links on a search engine’s results page, one in five (23%) said they were ‘the best results/ the most relevant results’; 20% said they were ‘the most popular results used by other people’, and 12% said they were unsure.
Methodology and sample
The report draws on the data from the UK Adults’ Media Literacy Tracker with adults aged 16 and over, and a quantitative survey was conducted by research firm Saville Rossiter-Base among 1,841 adults between September and October 2015.