[Air-L] Internet User Research

Catherine Middleton lists at catherinemiddleton.ca
Mon Jun 29 22:20:01 PDT 2009

Hello John (and Air-L),

Thanks for sharing your research. Like some others on the list, I'm  
not surprised by your results at all. I've done a lot of work with  
colleagues looking at Statistics Canada Internet Use Survey data,  
trying to understand how people who say yes, they use the internet,  
actually spend their time online. The most recent data are from 2007,  
and one of the key findings is that combining the frequency of online  
access (e.g. daily, weekly etc.) with hours online reveals that about  
45% of the (online) population are online daily AND for more than 5  
hours a week (high intensity users). Given that about 70% of the total  
adult (>17) population were online at the time of this survey,  just  
over 30% of adult Canadians were using the internet daily and for more  
than 5 hours a week as of late 2007. So arguably, intensity of use is  
low. Along the same lines, the only things that 50% or more of the  
total Canadian adult population (not just internet users) were doing  
online in 2007 were general web browsing and email.

As has been noted here, some people in the tech sector and some  
internet researchers tend to discount these data, maybe not being able  
to imagine that many people really do spend less than 5 hours online  
per week.

It's important to distinguish between internet adoption and use, and  
much more work is needed to understand what use really means. Hours  
online isn't a particularly good measure of use (especially as people  
adopt mobile phones with ubiquitous access), but it's been a starting  
point for many studies. The qualitative work John is doing provides  
good insights into real usage behaviours, and work to find good  
measures of engagement based on quantitative data continues.

If you're interested in this topic, my work in this area is available  
at http://www.broadbandresearch.ca/ourresearch/papers.html (scroll  
down for conference papers based on Statistics Canada data).

Also look for the papers from the "Beyond Broadband Access: Data-Based  
Information Policy For a New Administration Workshop" to be held in  
Washington, DC, this September.

For some recent industry data, see 2008/2009 Accenture US Consumer  
Technology Research Findings http://www.accenture.com/NR/rdonlyres/040BE0BE-1FE5-45DD-9791-AC1D40A45A2C/0/Accenture_211008_DL_Survey_09_Media_Deck_V09.pdf

Then of course there is another entire discussion about the disconnect  
between discourses about the need for, and use of next generation  
broadband networks, and the data about what the average user actually  
does online.

Catherine Middleton
Ted Rogers School of Management
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

catherine.middleton at ryerson.ca

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