UK Media Use Report: manna from heaven

I was excited to hear about the release of the latest Ofcom Communications Market Report for 2010. This report is, for the Social Media Strategist, manna from heaven. A free resource, robustly and exhaustively delivered, bang up to date and packed with insight on your media landscape and customers. 

The report runs to a fair few pages but I have already found much to ponder both in terms of how our customers are consuming media, including social media, but also the popularity and stickiness of our Social Media platforms.

I’ve enclosed a few highlights below and I urge you to incorporate this report (and others) into your Social Media Landscaping work – it will inform your decisions, saving you time and wasted effort down the line.


On our general Media Use the following is known:

  • 71% have broadband access to the internet in their homes (83% of 25-44 yr olds)
  • Individuals are spending almost 9 hours / day accessing a wide range of technologies, increasingly simultaneously
  • 3.5 hours/day are spent accessing Video: watching TV on a TV set, on-demand, online or other video clips
  • 1.5 hours/day are spend accessing Audio: such as radio on a radio set, or music online
  • 1.5 hours/day are spent sending Text: text messaging, social networking, instant messaging and emailing
  • Other activities used to a lesser degree (<35 minutes per day) include Voice, Print Media, Games and Other Media or Internet Activities.

40% of us now access Social or Professional Networks (rising to 61% of 15-34 year olds) and time spent on these networks is increasing at 159% year on year. We now spend 23% of our internet time on sites like Facebook.

These results suggest that for much of our waking time we are accessing one or more media and for the younger generation the emphasis is on simultaneous access, with Social Networks like Facebook a mainstay. Many will think nothing of listening to music, watching a programme and engaging with friends on Facebook or Instant Messenger.

This is further evidence that we are changing how our brains are wired (see my article Think of Your Customers as Hedgehogs or Foxes for more on this). We are becoming a nation of multi-taskers and are increasingly comfortable scanning and filtering a huge amount of information in real-time. We are perhaps becoming associative-wide thinkers rather than narrow-deep thinkers.

As a fellow multi-tasker, I know that this will present challenges for many organisations and brands – they will want my attention and try to convince me of their value but I am only half listening – I’m too busy doing five other things.  Even if they get my attention I will trust my peer reviews before their testimonials.

The Ofcom research also suggests that whilst some of our Social Media platforms are achieving the feat of being popular (unique visits / month) and sticky (av. minutes per month), namely Facebook and YouTube, others may be accessed differently or catering for more of a niche market.

For example, Wikipedia continues to be popular but it is not sticky – perhaps most of us dip in and out when we have a need. For every six people that use Facebook one of them will also use Twitter and yet we hear almost as much of  Twitter as Facebook.

I have provided an adapted graph that draws together this information from the Ofcom report, as follows:

Figure 1: Social Media Applications by Visitors and Av. Time Spent

Source: The Author based on Ofcom Communications Market Report 2010

This underlines the importance in really understanding channel use and user behaviour. It is not good enough to assume that a channel is right because others have implemented it or to assume that every customer will use and access a channel in the same way. In short we need to do our homework.

As a side note

I was responsible for delivering the Scottish E-Business Surveys a few years ago and was fortunate enough to get involved with Ofcom in some of their Communication Report work  in Scotland. I helped provide a business perspective on their results which have a household and general public focus.

In one of my last surveys (2006 I think) we asked some rather basic Social Media questions of the Scottish Business Community (“do you have a blog?) and received some very disappointing responses – Social Media was not being adopted. This year’s Communication Market Report shows just how far the world has moved on in such a short time.

As always comments are most welcome.


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About Alan Stevenson

Over the last fifteen years I have split my time almost equally between Developing Digital strategies for public and private sector clients and helping organisations visualise, specify, plan and optimise technology-based solutions within their organisation.
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One Response to UK Media Use Report: manna from heaven

  1. Alan

    Lot of very useful info contained in this Report – thanks for the summary.

    Jim H

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