Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Net gets Pink

It's arrived: the feminisation of the net

Forget the 20-something man playing online fantasy football and selling motorbike parts on eBay. The internet has a new user.

For years cyberspace has been tailored to an audience of mainly young men but for the first time women webusers have taken the lead in key age groups. At the same time an army of silver surfers has emerged and the over 65s are spending more hours online than any other age group.

The latest snapshot of Britain's communications market by regulator Ofcom turns the established assumptions about web users upside down. It also shows all of us spending more time online and on our mobiles than ever before.

Watching television, surfing the web, making phone calls and listening to the radio now take up an average 50 hours a week. While TV watching, radio listening and home phone use have all fallen since 2002, our daily minutes on the web have doubled.

The UK has the most active internet population in Europe thanks to widely available broadband connections that are getting cheaper every year.

The boom in web use is nothing new. But what website owners such as newspapers, TV companies and travel agents have to get to grips with is a new type of surfer.

One significant trend that stands out is an apparent feminisation of the internet. "Ever since it kicked off in the early 90s the web has been male-dominated. For the first time this year women are spending more time on the internet than men," says Peter Phillips, strategy and market developments partner at Ofcom, referring to web users in the 25 to 49 age bracket. "It's a big shift and has implications for the kind of content that content providers want to have on the internet."

Among 25- to 34-year-olds, women now spend more time using the internet than men, according to the Ofcom report published today. Although men account for the majority of web time in most other age groups, women have also taken a slight but significant lead in the 35-49 bracket.
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Key trends

· Britons are the most active web users in Europe and spend an average 36 minutes each online every day, up from 14 minutes in 2002. · Three-quarters of 11 year-olds have their own TV, games console and mobile. · Two-thirds of children do not believe they could easily live without a mobile and the internet. · Some 15% of UK households have a digital video recorder and 78% use it to fast-forward through adverts. · Some 16% of over-65s use the web. They surf for 42 hours every month, more than any other age group. One quarter of UK web users are over 50. · Two-thirds of phone owners use its alarm function instead of a clock.

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