Tag Archives: Digital Divide

TUPdate: Mouse Potato or Couch Potato? Interactive Fun Draws TV Viewers Ever Towards PCs

At the same time Americans are buying ever-bigger TVs, they are turning their attention to smaller screens – those on their PCs. In the 2008 Annual Edition of Technology User Profile, we found that 57% of Home PC Households agree with this statement: “I spend more time using my computer than watching TV.” Only one year ago, this percentage was less than half – 45%. What is the significance of this increasingly defined divide?

The draw to the PC away from TV stems from – where else? – Entertainment. Nearly four times as many PC-focused Americans as TV-focused ones say “I keep finding more ways to use the internet for fun,” with 76% of PCers and 20% of TVers in agreement. Also, 89% of PCers surveyed agree: “The Internet is a big part of my home entertainment,” compared with 36% of TVers.

Also, hands-on interactivity is a major draw, as the PC-focused go beyond simply pushing a few buttons on their remote controls. PC-focused Americans engage in uniquely proactive, leading-edge, and niche activities more often than TV-focused Americans do. Substantially more PCers participate in interactive chatting (47% PCers, 19% TVers), social networking (35% PCers, 12% TVers), and web publishing (15% PCers, 3% TVers) than do their TV-focused counterparts.

Furthermore, PCers use their PCs and the Internet for a wider range of activities, averaging 18 different activities compared with 11 on average among TVers. This reflects a self-reinforcing effect, as people discover more things they can do with their personal computers, the more they weave them into their daily lives, and then they are able to discover yet more activities of interest.

Although there are myths that the web is primarily frequented by young millennials, there are no strong demographic differences between those who identify as PC-focused and those who consider themselves TV-focused. These interactivity-seeking PC users are young and old, male and female, and high-income as well as low-income.

Looking ahead, we don’t agree with straight-lining pundits who forecast mass migration of eyeballs to the ever-tinier screens of mobile phones and PDAs. Instead, as we’ve watched technology adoption these last 2 decades, we stick with a whole-person view. There are brains and fingers attached to those eyeballs.

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TUPdates: The Fastest Online Get Busier While The Rest Get Left Behind

Broad public awareness about the Digital Divide was only a warm-up drill – a substantial group of Americans are now being left even further behind. While the growing economic and educational divide get lots of coverage, less attention has been given to the implications of the growing rift between the fast-connected and slow-connected. Furthermore, broadband adoption has stalled among the heaviest online users.

Why is this important?

Product planners, technologists, consumer marketers, governments, and even pollsters that imagine that all Internet users are high-speed and equal are missing the mark. The very people they are trying to reach with rich, streaming music or video content are a subset of the market and while growing in numbers, have dropped as a percent of those online. While broadband-attached users are increasing their time online, the ranks of dial-up users have swelled and are spending less time online. Internet users without fast, persistent connections might even pull the plug out of frustration.

According to the current edition of Technology User Profile, the longest-running large-scale technology survey conducted in the U.S., this year marks the first time in recent history that more than two-thirds (66.9%) of home Internet users with broadband connections spent 11 or more hours online per week. This is up from 62.9% in 2003. Also, heavy users have increased their hours online, rising from 34.8% of home PCs in 2003 to 38.5% in 2004. The study surveyed 10,418 computer users and asked them how many hours they spent actively on the Internet during a typical week at home.

This may appear to be rosy news for broadband providers, validating that users like what they see and therefore increase their usage. However, not all of the news is positive.

Light users, those with less than 11 hours online per week, have precipitously declining broadband adoption rates, dropping from 30.2% in 2003 to less than a quarter (24.2%) in 2004. At this point, this is due more to the entrance of new users that typically don’t spend as much time online and that don’t start with broadband connections, than being due to broadband users pulling the plug.

By comparison, moderate users (11 or more hours per week) and heavy users (21 or more hours per week) had flat broadband adoption rates. Moderate users remained flat with 46.9% having broadband in 2003 and 46.4% in 2004. Broadband adoption by heavy users was also flat, with 51.5% in 2003 and 51.6% in 2004. So, it is not as if the heaviest dial-up users are making the move to broadband.

Other factors at play are multiple-PC households, wireless networks, and the growing adoption of computer and online use by ever-younger users.

This mixed news may come as a shock to those that believe that everyone is high-bandwidth like them. It means that further shocks may crop up when those expecting nothing but growth find that they face declining numbers. Identifying those segments that are at risk of reducing their use and catering to their unique needs may help avoid such declines.

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TUPdates: Average American Means PC Ownership , Internet Connection…Almost

Almost three-fifths of American households own a PC, and nearly all of those households have some kind of Internet connectivity. However, the rate of broadband Internet use is much lower-about 27 percent of American homes have such a connection, or 46 percent of PC owners. The flip side is that there are still tens of millions of Americans who have never owned a PC. Furthermore, some groups of Americans have less than half the adoption rate of other Americans.

Why is this important?

Anyone that believes that all Americans are home computer users with fast, broadband Internet connections are just barely a quarter right. More importantly, there is a persistent gap between the connected and disconnected, with some market segments having five times the adoption rate of others.

These are some of the insights culled from the latest research undertaken by MetaFacts, Inc., based on responses to questionnaires submitted by 32,130 U.S. households. The responses showed that about 58 percent of U.S. homes own a PC, representing 64.3 million households. The most likely to own a computer are the affluent empty nesters and older SINKs (single income no kids), whose rate is 25 percent higher than average. The least likely are the single heads of households who are 75 or older; whose rate is 40 percent less than average. But, interestingly, almost all other groups are within 15 percent of the norm for the general population.

The rate of Internet connectivity (of any kind) is 57 percent, or only one point lower than the rate of PC ownership. Apparently, if they are going to have a PC, they are going to connect it. In all groups the rate of Internet connectivity is within a few points of the rate of PC ownership.

However, the same cannot be said of broadband Internet connections. Only 27 percent of households have one (although this still amounts to almost 30 million subscribers) and the adoption rate varies considerably among various groups. Unsurprisingly, affluent, traditional families are the most likely to have a broadband Internet connection. In fact, they are 53 percent more likely than the average American household to have it. They are closely followed by affluent, young singles; affluent empty nesters and older SINKs; DINKs (double income no kids); working parents; and younger, mid-income empty nesters.

The least likely to have a broadband connection are single heads of households who are 75 or older. Their rate of connection is about a third of the average. Married heads of households who are 75 and older follow next, but are nearly half the average, as are single active seniors, plus middle-income older singles. The next tier are the married active seniors, who are connected at about three-fourths the average rate. Most of the other classifications clustered around the average.

Meanwhile, there are still pockets of resistance to the computer revolution, especially among the aged. Single heads of household who are more than 75 years old are twice as likely as average to report no PC usage. That might seem like a niche, but it’s still 2.7 million households. The next group that is least likely to use a PC are the married heads of households who are at least 75-but they are only about a third more likely than average to be non-users. Older, mid- to low-income singles and single active seniors are in that same tier as well. (The least likely to not use a PC are affluent singles, regardless of age.) The scattered resistance is enough to add up to 35 million households without a PC-a significant market, but since they are committed non-users the question is whether they are a viable market.

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