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Surveys Provide a Snapshot of the State of the Digital World

By Sree Sreenivasan | August 30, 2010 12:23pm

By Sree Sreenivasan

DNAinfo Contributing Editor

Several new studies, surveys and research about social media and other tech trends have hit the Web recently, and I thought it might be useful to see what they tell us about the state of the digital world.

* NIELSEN NETVIEW'S WHAT AMERICANS DO ONLINE: As you can see from the chart above, social networking is the No. 1 activity online, having grown 43 percent in the last year, with online games at No. 2 (up 10 percent from 2009) and e-mail at No. 3 (down 28 percent in a year). The growth of social media and decline of e-mail has been remarked upon by many Web experts. Thanks to Facebook, many people are connecting with family and friends using that service rather than sending old-fashioned e-mail, group letters, vacation photos, etc. 

“Despite the almost unlimited nature of what you can do on the web, 40 percent of U.S. online time is spent on just three activities – social networking, playing games and emailing leaving a whole lot of other sectors fighting for a declining share of the online pie,” Nielsen analyst Dave Martin said in a statement. 

When you look at mobile Internet use, the trends are different. "There is a double-digit (28 percent) rise in the prevalence of social networking behavior, but the dominance of email activity on mobile devices continue with an increase from 37.4 percent to 41.6 percent of U.S. mobile Internet time," a Nielsen survey of mobile web users said.

Another stat revealed in the survey: "June 2010 was a major milestone for U.S. online video as the number of videos streamed passed the 10 billion mark. The average American consumer streaming online video spent 3 hours 15 minutes doing so during the month."

* COMSCORE'S WOMEN ON THE WEB: This report (full title is "Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet") reports that "social networking sites reach a higher percentage of women than men globally, with 75.8 percent of all women online visiting a social networking site in May 2010 versus 69.7 percent of men."

The report shows that although women account for 47.9 percent of total unique visitors to the social networking category, they consume 57 percent of pages and account for nearly 57 percent of total minutes spent on these sites. Women spend significantly more time on social networking sites than men, with women averaging 5.5 hours per month compared to men’s 4 hours. Although men are in the majority across the global Internet, women spend about 8 percent more time online, averaging 25 hours per month on the Web. 

The stereotype that women are more fond of shopping seems to also exist online, with this report showing that women spend 20 percent more time on retail sites than men. Two areas where men's numbers are more than women's: Men spend more time watching online videos than men (though women spend a much higher share of their time watching videos on YouTube than men) and in the U.S. and Europe, smartphone usage is dominated by men (60 percent of men have smartphones). Earlier this month, digital analyst Brian Solis used the comScore and other data to make the case that women are generally more influential on Twitter than men

* PEW INTERNET'S OLDER ADULTS AND SOCIAL MEDIA: This survey shows that the growth of social media has been especially strong among U.S. seniors (of course, they were using social networks less often than younger Americans to begin with). Social networking use among Internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May 2010.

“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,”  Mary Madden, the report's author is quoted as saying. “E-mail is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications.”

While social media grew 13 percent among those 18-29 (from 76 percent to 86 percent), it grew 88 percent among those 50-64 (from 25 percent to 47 percent) and by 100 percent among those 65+ (from 13 percent to 26 percent). 

These Pew stats are similar to what happened with e-mail in the mid-1990s. Office workers and younger folks were early adopters of e-mail, but soon seniors discovered that e-mail can help them keep in touch with family and friends and moved online in huge numbers.

Taken together, these stats reflect what we've known for some time now: that social media is growing and people of all ages and both genders are finding ways to make it a relevant part of their lives. They are using social networking for work and play (and wasting enormous amounts of time) and advertisers and markerters are going to try to figure out how to connect better with these folks online.

What do YOU think? Let me know via Twitter @sreenet or via the comments below.

Every week, DNAinfo contributing editor Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia Journalism School professor, shares his observations about the changing media landscape.