Internet use now tops TV, radio and newspapers -- but emerging markets use the Net more than in developed nations. Users in emerging markets also engage in more social networking, while users in developing nations spend more time on e-mail. Photo sharing and blogging are popular in emerging markets, and both groups are increasingly mobile.
According to a new survey of more than 48,000 online users, 61 percent of the world's online population now accesses the Internet on a daily basis versus 54 percent for TV, 36 percent for radio, and 32 percent for newspapers. However, online users in the world's most developed markets -- despite having access to advanced Internet infrastructures -- are less engaged than their counterparts in the world's rapidly growing emerging markets.
According to U.K.-based research agency TNS, user engagement in Egypt (56 percent) and China (54 percent) is significantly higher than in Finland (26 percent), Denmark (25 percent) or Japan (20 percent). "The Internet is a huge part of life in the 21st century," observed TNS Chief Development Officer Matthew Froggatt. "But how it affects our lives varies depending upon where in the world you live."
A Host of New Reasons
For many online users in the developed world, the Internet has "become a commoditized item that consumers take for granted," Froggatt said. By contrast, the sustained investments in infrastructure that have recently taken place in emerging markets are giving online users there a host of new reasons to embrace new channels in much more active ways, he added.
"The digital world is transforming how they live, develop and interact," Froggatt said. "And online consumers in these markets are leaving those in the developed world behind in terms of being active online and engaging in new forms of communications."
In the world's more developed markets, online users spend 5.1 hours per week on average in their e-mail inboxes compared to just 3.8 hours on social-networking activities. By contrast, online emerging-market users spend 5.2 hours per week engaged in social-networking activities, compared to only four hours on e-mail.
The popularity of social networking is particularly high in nations such as Malaysia, where online users engage in such activities for about 9 hours per week on average. Social networking is also on the rise in the emerging markets of Russia (8.1 hours) and Turkey (7.7 hours), TNS researchers said.
The amount of time users spend on social networking can be attributed in part to the number of online friends that users are able to cultivate over time. Malaysian and Brazilian users are the most liberal with more than 230 online friends on average, while the Japanese are the most conservative with just 29 friends.
The uploading of photos has become hugely popular among online users -- particularly in Asia where the vast majority of online consumers in Thailand (92 percent), Malaysia (88 percent) and Vietnam (87 percent) say they have uploaded photos to social networks or photo sharing sites in the past.
By contrast, online users in developed markets are less likely to have uploaded photos online. Only 48 percent of respondents in Germany and just 28 percent in Japan indicated they had uploaded photos to social-networking and photo-sharing sites.
Online blogging is also rapidly gaining momentum among Internet users in emerging markets worldwide. Four out of five online users in China -- and more than half of those in Brazil -- have already written their own blog or forum entry, compared to just 32 percent of respondents living in the United States.
Consumers worldwide now expect their use of mobile devices for social-networking activities to increase more rapidly than on traditional PC platforms, TNS researchers say. For example, 36 percent of U.S. online consumers expect their social networking on mobile devices to rise in the next 12 months. By contrast, only 26 percent said they expect to increase their social-networking activities on traditional PC platforms.