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Ofcom takes a scalpel to UK media habits

A new report by media watchdog Ofcom has revealed that more people play online games than download films or music, making online gaming the most popular form of online media consumption. The statistics come from industry sources and a survey of 1,138 adults.

The 370 page document, which studies media consumption across different age groups in the UK, shows that 39 per cent of all internet users play online games, as opposed to only 38 per cent who used the internet to download films or music. Among users aged 15-24 the number for both activities climbs to 55 per cent.

This reflects a relative increase of 15 per cent in online gaming,according to Ofcom, which now accounts for seven per cent of internet use overall.

The study also claims that broadband penetration has now reached 71 per cent in the UK, just below a 76 per cent take up of PCs, with internet uptake increasingly rapidly among older age groups. A change in internet usage has meant that while revenues for ISPs have remained largely flat in the last five years, data flow has increased exponentially, proving costly for providers. Over 65s proved to be fastest growing group of internet users, with a seven per cent increase in take-up over the last twelve months.

Some interesting statistics were raised on media consumption habits, with a trend emerging for increased levels of media multitasking. Among the 16-24 age group, 52 per cent of media activity is simultaneous, with the use of mobiles and computers simultaneously being the most popular combination of activities. This multitasking allows users to fit an average daily use of media of eight hours and forty minutes into just seven hours. 56 per cent of games were consumed solus, whilst performing no other activity.

Social networking

Social networking is now said to account for 23 per cent of all time spent online, while over half of the time which 16-24 year olds spend using computers is on communicating with others - 22 per cent social networking, and 14 per cent each on instant messaging and email.

These figures have largely been driven by an increase in the number of users of Facebook, which had a audience of nearly 25 million unique users as of May 2010. The average user spent six and a half hours on the site during April 2010, averaging 13 minutes a day. This is a decrease from the peak use of eight hours and 39 minutes during November 2009 (17 minutes a day).

Bebo was the next most popular and intensively utilised social networking site, with users spending around an hour on the site a month. Interestingly, 45 per cent of all time spent using mobile internet is spent on Facebook. Social networking was confirmed as being most popular amongst ABC1 women, with 40 per cent of UK households having one or more social networking profiles – 31 per cent of those using Facebook.

Facebook's UK userbase increased by 31 per cent in the last year, while LinkedIn grew 96 per cent and Twitter 56 per cent, albeit from far smaller beginnings.

Games and consoles

The report also revealed that 50 per cent of households now contain a games console, with 14 per cent having purchased at least one console in the last 12 months. 16-24 year olds are more likely to use the TV to play games than any other group, playing games during 10 per cent of their time in front of a television.

Games were ranked as the media activity which demanded 'the most attention' by respondents, although they were also ranked as relatively unimportant overall. Only 4 per cent of 16-24 year olds would miss games more than any other form of media.

The report also acknowledges how console penetration has changed the face of media consumption in the UK, specifically stating that: "Videogames consoles are also emerging as important platforms for delivering video to the television."

Ten per cent of all traffic from the BBC's iPlayer service now comes from PS3 and Wii consoles, overtaking the seven per cent which originates from Macs.

There was good news for the mobile gaming market, or at least its advertisers – revenues from mobile gaming ads rose a phenomenal 214 per cent.

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Dan Pearson