Online transactions, streamed content, email and social networking signal changes in how Australians use the internet

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Growth in the number of Australian consumers using the internet for shopping flattened during the last 12 months, a new report by the communications regulator has revealed.The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) most recent annual report on telecommunications revealed that around 52.5 per cent of internet users made a purchase online in the 12 months to March 2007 compared with 46 per cent in the previous year.,24897,24536259-5013040,00.htmlRevealed: How we really surf the net
Pornography might be the greasy wheel that makes the internet profitable, but it seems to hold little interest for Australians if the results of government-commissioned research are to be believed.

On-line transactions, streamed content, email and social networking signal changes in how Australians use the internet [news release]

Email, on-line banking, paying bills and news and weather updates are the most common uses of the internet by Australians this year, according to research released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.The report, Telecommunications Today Report 6: Internet Activity and Content, examines consumer adoption of the internet and the impact this is having on the growth of the digital economy in Australia. With 73 per cent of Australian households now having access to the internet, the report found that, overall, household internet users are accessing the internet more frequently, with an increasing number recording ‘heavy’ use (8 or more times per week).The use of the internet for online purchases is extensive. Just over half (54 per cent) of those accessing the internet in the quarter ending March 2008 bought a product online, an increase of 8 per cent from 2006.’One of the main changes to consumer behaviour as a result of the internet is the willingness of consumers to engage in commerce online,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘Paying bills, airline ticket purchases and accommodation bookings have become some of the most popular activities on the internet.’The internet has also become a significant social medium with the majority of internet users nominating email and socialising as activities they perform online. Changes to social interaction have been identified with a large number of internet users participating and using social networking sites, instant messaging, blogs and VoIP as communication tools.’Internet users report a reduction in their use of traditional forms of media for entertainment and information activities – such as watching television, listening to the radio and reading magazines and newspapers. The internet has enabled users to engage in viewing and listening activities online by streaming or downloading videos, podcasts, music and television.The report is the sixth and final in ACMA’s Telecommunication Today series on consumer use of communication services, and is available on ACMA’s website.Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager, (02) 9334 7980.BackgrounderThe Australian Communications and Media Authority has been examining a number of aspects of the use and provision of telecommunications services in Australia.This research program, Telecommunications Today, is designed to assist ACMA in its role as industry regulator and is consistent with its regulatory responsibilities to provide information about the telecommunications industry.Previous reports examined consumer, farm and SME take-up and use of services, satisfaction with telecommunications services and consumer choice and service preferences, with some of the results from these earlier research cited in this report.These reports can be found on ACMA’s website.This report examines the behaviour of Australian internet users with reference to the following questions:

  • How many consumers have internet access?
  • What is the duration and frequency of consumers’ online activities?
  • What are they doing/viewing online?
  • What is the impact of being online on transactions, communication patterns and entertainment?

Information in the report was drawn from several sources, including:

  • Roy Morgan Single Source survey of individual consumers aged over 14 years;
  • Nielsen Online’s The Australian Internet and Technology Report 2007-2008, a telephone and online survey of a random sample of Australian internet users aged over 16 years;
  • commissioned work from Woolcott Research, which undertook 12 focus group discussions of residential household consumers recruited from a random sample as well as quantitative research using 1,600 respondents; and
  • Nielsen//NetRatings, a panel of randomly selected internet users who install tracking software onto their personal computers to measure internet activity.

Internet take-up and useResearch found that the majority (73 per cent) of Australian households are connected to the internet. The growth in broadband households and decrease in dial-up households points to substitution from dial-up to broadband internet connection. Socio-economic factors such as regional differences, income, family structure and level of education achieved influenced the take-up of the internet.Since the January-March quarter 2008 there has been an increase in the proportion of users reporting heavy internet use (8 or more times in the previous week), while there was a concurrent reduction in users who have medium (1-7 times in previous week) and light (less than once a week) internet use.Heavy internet users are more likely to:

  • have a broadband internet connection (62 per cent);
  • live in metropolitan areas, 44 per cent of compared to 34 per cent of non-metropolitan users;
  • be aged between 18 and 34 years;
  • male (61 per cent compared to females at 48 per cent);
  • earning an income of $40,000 or more; and
  • hold a diploma or degree (64 per cent) and have some university education or attend university (62 per cent).

Most popular activities overall and by age group and genderAccording to Nielsen Online, consumers most commonly use the internet for email (98 per cent), banking transactions (72 per cent), news and weather updates (72 per cent), and paying bills (66 per cent), as shown in Figure 1.Internet users with broadband are more likely to use the internet for banking transactions and obtaining maps and directions than dial-up users.Age is a determining factor in the activities consumers choose to perform online. Email is the most common application across all age groups. Streaming videos and banking online feature in the top five activities of all age groups, and participating in auctions features in the top 10.Internet users aged between 16 and 24 years are the most likely group to use the internet for entertainment, while those aged between 25 and 34 also recorded a high level of use of social and entertainment applications. A high proportion of users over the age of 45 use the internet to submit forms or information to government websites; this activity is recorded in the top 10 of all three age group segments, as shown in Table 1.Gender is another factor influencing applications used on the internet. The frequency of common activities such as email, paying bills and banking is similar between males and females, as shown in Figure 2. However, males recorded higher levels of use for adult services, downloading audio and video, news and weather information, and streaming videos.Females are more likely than males to use the internet for accessing health and medicine information, and education and study sites. Females also recorded a higher level of use of online social networking — 27 per cent compared to 23 per cent of males.To see this news release in full with tables on top 10 uses of the internet by age group and graphs, see

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