Youngsters make far more use of the Web, but are less receptive to online ads than their elders, according to a new pan European study.
The 14th session of the NetObserver Europe study looked at the online behaviour and perceptions of more than 210,000 Internet users in 5 European countries; UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
The research focused on the web characteristics which distinguish the younger generation (ages 15-24) from their elders (25 years and over).
The Novatris/Harris Interactive study examined the behaviour of the European Internet users focusing on time spent online, communication and entertainment activities, the perception of ‘Web 2.0’ and views of online advertising.
There is a higher proportion of females amongst young Internet users
Whatever the country, the feminisation of the Internet has a larger impact on the younger generation. Indeed, within the group of 15-24 year olds, females are either of the same ratio to males (Italy, Spain) or in a majority (UK, Germany and France).
On the other hand, there are more males in the over 25 age group, even though their proportion is similar to that of women in the UK and France.
The younger generation undoubtedly spends more time online than their elders
The majority of young Internet users connect several times per day. However it is not just the frequency of connection, but the time spent online that distinguishes the younger generation from their elders.
For each of the 5 countries studied, there are more young Internet users who spend more than three hours per day online in comparison to their elders. Reversely, a higher proportion of users aged 25 and over spend less than one hour per day online.
Above all, for the younger generation the Internet is a communication tool
Young European Internet users are larger consumers of various online available communication tools than their elders.
15-24 year olds regularly use more direct (through instant messaging, telecommunication software with the Internet, chat rooms) or indirect (through discussion forums or blogs) communication tools than those aged over 25.
Looking at the main differences from one country to another, it is clear that young Spanish Internet users use instant messaging the most (80% regularly use instant messaging) and that young German Internet users use ‘chat’ the most (46% regularly use ‘chat’).
But the Internet is also a medium of self-expression and entertainment
The younger generation is more likely to not only consult blogs and community sites, but also to create their own online personal space (blog or personal page). They are also more likely to listen to radio online, play online videogames and use an audio or video podcasting service.
The five countries studied countries have their own characteristics:
46% of young British Internet Users regularly listen to the radio online. Whereas nearly half of young Germans regularly play online video games. As for the young French Internet users, 46% of them regularly visit blogs, personal pages and community sites.
Finally, regarding Spain and Italy, their young Internet users come out ahead in the usage of podcasts and videocasts: 36% of young Spanish Internet users regularly use podcasting services (audio or video) in comparison to a quarter of young Italian Internet Users.
Young Internet users perceive ‘Web 2.0’ more useful than their elders
Owing to the younger generation being larger consumers of the new features allowed by the technological evolution of the Internet (Ajax, XML…) it is understandable that they are more likely than their elders to consider these features useful.
The publication and sharing of information (text, audio or video) amongst a community (Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo! 360°…) is the feature considered to be the most useful by both generations. Besides, one can note that this feature is appreciated even more by the young Spanish and Italian Internet users because no less than 88% of them consider it
Customisation (My MSN, My Yahoo!, Netvibes...) is the second feature of ‘Web 2.0’ which strikes a chord with a large majority of young people. Nevertheless, its degree of usefulness is somewhat close to that of the contribution to collaborative sites (Wikipedia) and that of RSS feeds.
On the other hand, for those aged 25 and over, RSS feeds are more useful than customisation or collaborative contribution. This is not surprising as European Internet users aged 25 and over, regularly receive more RSS streams than the younger generation.
For the younger generation, the contribution of content to collaborative sites or wikis (Wikipedia) lies in third position. For the young Germans, this collaborative aspect of ‘Web 2.0’ even has the same degree of usefulness as the publication and exchange of information.
RSS feeds are the least popular in terms of the most useful features according to young people. Nevertheless, it is not a matter of rejecting this functionality outright because there is always more half of them who consider it useful.
Consequently, the level of usefulness received by RSS feeds is similar between both generations. Yet the level of usage of RSS feeds is lower amongst young people as they use the Internet less to keep them informed than their elders do.
With the exception of the United Kingdom where advertising is considered to be particularly creative, young European Internet users are less appreciative of online advertising than their elders.
Overall 15-24 year olds are less interested by the majority of advertising that they see on the Internet than those aged 25 and over. All the same, fewer young people in comparison to their elders estimate that advertising helps them make better purchasing decisions. They are also less numerous in thinking that advertising helps them find products and services that they search for in comparison to those aged 25 and over.
An important part of young Internet users recognise, however, that advertising helps them to discover new products and services.
Finally, the majority of young Internet users find that online advertising is creative and innovative. In other words, advertising agents are compelled to adapt their communication strategy when using the Internet to reach young people. They could, for instance, refer to the communication, self-expression or entertainment aspects that constitute the main motivations of young people when using the Internet.
Source: NetObserver, March 2007
Novatris/ Harris Interactive