19 January 2005

Jeffrey Cole on the impact of Broadband access

This is an excerpt of Jeffrey Cole's presentation at the iMedia Summit in December 2004, entitled New Internet trends: changing media use, declining credibility and the rise of broadband. Jeffrey Cole describes the transformation in Internet use brought about when an always-on broadband connection becomes available at home.

Jeffrey Cole, now Director of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg School for Communication, is the founder of the World Internet Project: a longitudinal study, initiated four years ago, of the way Internet use is transforming the way we live in 20 countries. In the U.S., the project surveys a representative sample of 2,000 people every year to follow the evolution of their technological equipment, their habits, the activities they carry out online, their communication patterns and their media usage.

First trend we're going to look at is something that you can't say any more simply than this: Broadband changes evrything. First just a statistic about broadband - right now we're on the verge of the majority of homes becoming broadband homes. Last year about 46% of homes connected through broadband. Right about nowx we're crossing the line that the majority of homes connect through broadband.

I actually believe there's a bigger gap between dial-up use and broadband use that there is between non-use and dial-up use. That's how significant I think broadband is. Fascinatingly to us, four years ago when we started talking to consumers, we found that 40% of those who ordered broadband at home were not aware they were getting an always-on or a direct connection. They thought they were just getting a really fast dial-up: You connected the old way and then when you connected it just was really fast. And while they got used to the speed, they bought it for the speed, the speed was addictive and they got used to it immediately. But it was always on, so the direct connection changed their relationship to the Internet far more significantly than the speed did.

We find dial-up to be this disruptive technology. Well, broadband is a very integrative technology. And what I mean by that, when we say that dial-up is disruptive, the average dial-up user is on one, two to three times a day, with exceptions, for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. When they dial-up they usually go into some other part of the house, towards the back, into a den, into a bedroom, into an office. Of course there are exceptions. And generally, dial-up time is time spent away from the family, although they can be around them, and time spent away from television, although the television can be on if people do multitask from the beginning.

Dial-up users view dialing-up as a big deal. They frequently write down on the back of an envelope or a Post-It Note the things they want to do when they log-on. And if they log-off forgetting to do those things, they get irritated at themselves. Even though the act of dialing-up only takes about 30 seconds, they view it as a big deal, or as we in the scientific community call it, a "BFD".

On the other hand, broadband is a really integrative technology. The average broadband user at home is on 20, 30, 40 times a day, two to three minutes at a time, with lots of exceptions. And, when they go online, it doesn't displace other activities such as family conversation or television viewing. It occurs in between those activities. It fits into the rythms of the day. It isn't as likely to displace anything because they're only on for two minutes at a time, not 20 or 30 minutes of dial-up. It doesn't displace family conversation. Conversation occurs around the Internet time on broadband. 

10 January 2005

Internet use and sociability - USA

December 2004
The Stanford Center for the Quantitative Study of Society published the report Ten years after the birth of the Internet, how do Americans use the Internet in their daily lives? One particular finding has attracted commentators' attention: increasing online time reduces face-to-face time with family.

we were very interested to discover that the increase in Internet use over the last 10 years has eaten into television viewing less than expected. Time online seems to come more out of family discretionary time (Norman Nie, director of SIQQS)

This finding is taken to support the hypothesis that "increased Internet use reduces the time spent socializing and other activities". This conclusion however runs against another significant finding, that is, that communication is the online activity people engage in most. Using the Internet seems to be reducing one form of communication, that is face-to-face, while augmenting other forms, i.e. Internet-mediated communications. This creates opportunities to extend face-to-face communication, as IM does both in the workplace and among teenagers; to expand one's social networks (20% of the Internet users communicate with someone they have never met in person) and to bring new meanings to face-to-face encounters. Even if Internet use reducesd face-to-face sociability, it wouldn't necessarily have a negative impact on overall socialbility.

June 2004
A representative sample of 4,839 18 to 64 year-old Americans was contacted and asked whether they had used the Internet the previous day. The 1,518 who had done so described the activities they had carried out at six, randomly selected, hours of that day, following the Time Diary methodology developed at SIQSS.

How long are Internet users online?
They spend a significant part of the day online, on average nearly 3 hours per day, of which one hour is spent at work.   

In what activities do Internet users engage?
Time online is mainly for communication: email, IM and chat take up 57% of the time spent online. Of this time, work-related communication accounts for a third; friends for nearly a third; family for about a sixth. Browsing time is shared between playing games (20.3%), surfing the web (15.4%), shopping and selling (10%), news (7.6%), work (6.9%) and planning travel (5.0%). Other activities account for less than 5.0% of the time spent browsing.

Does Internet use reduce TV watching?
On average, all respondents watched TV for 2 hours per day, whereas Internet users did so for one hour and 45 minutes. TV watching goes down and Internet use up among people with a Bachelor degree or higher, people between age 18 and 44,  and among students.      

09 November 2004

Changing online consumer behaviours

During Q2 2003, DoubleClick started to aggregate data collected and processed using its SiteAdvanceSM web analytics solution that is implemented in a large number of e-commerce sites. From this data, every quarter Doubleclick publishes an E-Commerce Site Trend report. The Q3 2004 report, which has been recently published, highlights some very interesting behavioural changes from the previous year.

Flipping through
Compared to last year, visitors' sessions on commerce sites are half a minute shorter. They now last on average 4.4 minutes, versus 4.9 minutes in Q3 2003. Visitors spend on average 14 seconds less on each page they visit. It is now 29 seconds versus 43 seconds a year ago. The increased speed means that, on average, in each session, they look at almost three more pages: 10.3 pages versus 7.7.

Finding a product doesn't mean buying it
The percentage of e-commerce site visitors who add products to their carts, but then abandon them, has increased from 53% to 57%. But, once they start the checkout process, they are more likely to complete the purchase (63%) compared to a year earlier (59%).

On-site searches more effective
There is an increase in the frequency and size of sales coming through the commerce site search function. They were 6.6% of all sales a year ago, and are now 9.3%, with higher conversion rate (2.1% vs. 1.5%) and greater value (126$ vs. 100$).

Where: Global
When: Q3 2004

How do wireless data users access corporate computers and networks?

A recent report from InStat/MDR titled Remote access to Corporate Networks growing sheds some light on wireless data usage.

Conceding that wireless access is still rare, it appears that laptops and notebooks are the primary wireless access devices. The use of these devices goes with higher frequency of access and data transfer patterns. Thus, it is users of laptops and notebooks who upload and download the most data wirelessly. Access through VPN is used by about half of the respondents and not exclusively. Finally, among a list of potential VoIP applications, respondents are most interested by the possibility of making voice calls from their notebook computers. 

A word on method: In-Stat/MDR surveyed about 500 wireless data users and planned users, from its Technology Adoption Panel.

Where: US
When: 2004

03 November 2004

Two factors influencing online spending patterns

Buying products and services online has become common practice among Internet users. According to eMarketer, in the US there are 155.6 Million Internet users. They were 147M in 2003; 138.3M in 2002 and 122.8M in 2001). The majority of them, that is 74%, buys online. They were 73% in 2003; 71% in 2002 and 67% in 2001.

In More Broadband usage means more online spending, Sean Michael Kerner quotes comScore analyses that show a strong effect on online spending of two factors: broadband Internet access at home and Internet use history. Compared to dial-up Internet users, broadband users spend online 50% more (average quarterly online spending is 311$ vs. 217$). Internet newcomers (less than one year), on the other hand, spend online about half of what long-time (10 years) Internet users spend (in the past 6 months, this corresponds to 700$ vs. 400$).

Where: US
When: October 2004 (published)

28 October 2004

Web searching 1.0: Public searching of the Web, by A. Spink and B.J. Jansen

The results from seven years of research on how people look for information on the web are presented in a new book by Amanda Spink and Bernard J. Jansen: Web searching: Public searching of the Web. The book is not available yet, but some reviews are.

Among the findings, Spink and Jansen observe little evolution over time in search behaviour: people do simple, rapid searches. On average they enter two words per search; inspect only the first page of results; do two queries per search session; search sessions are short, less than five minutes.

What has significantly evolved over time is the content searched. In 1997, about 20% of the search terms used was sex-related, now they account for about 5% in the US, between 8 and 10% in Europe. The opposite has happened with search terms related to e-commerce: they are 86% more frequent now than seven years ago.

Where: US (mostly)
When: 1997 - 2003

27 October 2004

Online safety-related behaviours and attitudes

Most uses of Internet technologies are straightforward. Others instead are quite sophisticated. They require a good understanding of how the technology works and some system management. The AOL and National Cyber Security Alliance Online Safety Study reminds us of how complex Internet can be for many people, and even for those experienced users who took part in the study (online for more than 6 years on average). The research highlights how this complexity contributes to confusion and inefficacy when it comes to manage Online Safety.

A word on the structure of the study, because it is clever and original. A sample of 329 urban/suburban adult Internet users were surveyed over the phone, and answered around 40 questions, about demographics, factual behavioural descriptions, knowledge evaluations and attitudes. Then, a group of technicians examined the respondents' computers safety status and configuration.

In the large majority of households, the connected home computer plays a sensitive role: it stores confidential information and processes confidential transactions (84% and 72% respectively). Most people feel that it is safe from online threats (77%) and from hackers (60%). At the same time, for some people the connected home computer is also an open system. Almost half of the respondents (47%) have downloaded file sharing applications, and one computer out of four has such an application installed and active. Fewer households have a wireless network (12%), and when they do, most take steps to protect it (62% encrypt and 51% use MAC filtering).

A majority of respondents (73%) declare that they feel safe from viruses (14% very, 59% somewhat safe) even though in the past they experienced viruses on their computer (63%, 18% don't know) and today they don't know whether they do or not (50%) or think they might have one (6%). The home computer analysis shows that 19% have at least a virus.

When it comes to protection, the large majority (83%) says they have anti-virus software (9% don't know). The home computer analysis confirms the presence of anti-virus software (85%). This software either came with the computer (55%) or was purchased by the user (44%). But since new viruses appear all the time, anti-virus software has to be kept constantly updated. The majority of respondents (71) say that they update daily/weekly. The others say that they never do so (12%); they do so on a monthly basis (12%) or on a yearly basis (5%). Contrary to what has been said, the analysis indicates 33% updates within the previous week and 52% between one and more than six month. In reality, the majority of respondents (67%) either have no anti-virus protection or have not recently updated their protection.

The fact that most respondents (58%) say they don't understand well the difference between a firewall and antivirus software doesn't help.

Given the previous findings, it is not surprising to discover that half the respondents (48%) feel they know well what a firewall is and how it works. One on three (37%) say they use a firewall and think that the firewall is set up correctly (87%). The home computer analysis confirms the proportion of firewalls (33%), but also indicates that most of the times they aren’t properly configured (72%).

Even though they all experienced spyware/adware generated nuisance, and have heard the term spyware (91%), knowledge of what it is and of ways to remove them is very limited. And even if practically none of the respondents (90%) say they accept installation of spyware/adware, one in two respondents (53%) believe they have spyware/adware on their machine. The analysis shows that they are actually 80% to have spyware/adware installed. And practically all of them (86%) accepted the technicians' offer to remove the spyware/adware components from their computers.

Where: US
When: September 15th - October 8th 2004

20 October 2004

Communication technologies foster multitasking

One of the distinctive features of the time we spend online is that it combines and superposes different strands of activity and perception. When sitting at the computer, we read and write text while listening to the radio, then handle a couple of IM sessions, receive a phone call, and as the conversation languishes go back to the text we were reading or writing. Often the TV is in the background, and printouts, magazines and newspapers are at reach. At any moment, our attention can be captured by them and treating them can enter into our multilayered flow of activity. If we are home, we can at the same time carry out practical tasks that only require partial monitoring, such as cooking or washing. In the office, some media-related activities are less frequently, but on the other hand all our activities take place against the background of parallel conversations, interruptions and coordinations. Even these sacred institutions that are seminars and conferences, now offering wireless Internet connection, have become hosts to multitasking. We listen to the speaker while we have conversations or we consult the web. But how widespread is multitasking around communication technologies?

We had already some indications from our analysis of IM usage research (see How teenagers use IM). While they instant message, teenagers run two or three more strands of activity in parallel.

Twice each year, BIGresearch runs the Simultaneous Media Usage Survey (SIMM) which monitors over 10.000 consumers' combined media consumption behaviour. The October 2003 SIMM showed that while listening to radio, 57,3% of the people say they are online, either regularly or occasionally, 46,5% that they read the newspaper and 17,7% that they watch TV ; while watching TV, 74,2% of the people say they read the newspaper; 66,2% say that they are online; while reading the newspaper, 52,4 say they watch TV while 49,6% say they listen to radio ; while online, 61,8% say they watch TV, 52,1% that they listen to music, whereas 20,2% say that they read the newspaper.

The September 2004 SIMM report suggests that the tendency to multitasking is growing. For instance, when they are online, 63,5% people say they watch TV either regularly or occasionally; 59,7% that they listen to the radio and 40% that they read the mail.

Where: US
When: October 2003, September 2004 (publication)

19 October 2004

The proactive consumer : online research as part of purchasing behaviour

The 2004 American Interactive Consumer Survey by The Dieringer Research Group, a yearly survey started in 1995, studies 3.000 US adults online and offline purchasing behaviour and assesses how the Internet influences their behaviour either directly - online sales - or indirectly - offline sales. Compared to the previous years, 2004 has seen a significant increase in the Internet driver of offline purchases. It is estimated that for 1$ consumers spend directly online, 1$70 dollars are spent offline after some Internet research. In a year, Internet-influenced offline spending has grown 31% versus 14% of direct online sales. This phenomenon is reported to be even more pronounced when what is purchased are financial and insurance products and services. In 2004, 20.5 M US adults used the Internet for financial and insurance product information compared to 12.6 in 2003.

Where: US
When: June 2004

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