Magazine article Information Today

Pew Internet: Highlights of the Digital Domain

Magazine article Information Today

Pew Internet: Highlights of the Digital Domain

Article excerpt

In its ongoing quest to monitor online user behavior, the Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a trio of timely studies and surveys that provide more information on microblogging, U.S. internet usage figures, and Latin-American internet usage. Here are some of the highlights of each of the reports:

Microblogging Escalates

Since April 2009, the audience for Twitter and other microblogging sites increased by two-thirds, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on "Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009" by Susannah Fox, Kathryn Zickuhr, and Aaron Smith. Surveys conducted in December 2008 and April 2009 showed that roughly 11% of internet users used Twitter or another status update service. By September 2009, when the survey was conducted, that number had risen to 19%. The Pew survey did not count Facebook, the originator of status updates, as a status update service.

As with so many cutting-edge trends on the internet today, the earliest adopters of Twitter and its competitors have been a younger audience; these users are involved with social media and are able to connect to the internet via mobile devices. Race, income, and education are not factors in adoption.

The survey notes that 35% of people who use sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn also use a status update service, compared to only 6% of those who don't. Likewise, those who have wireless internet access through a phone, video game console, or laptop microblog at a rate of 25%, which is up from 14% in December 2008 and dwarfs the 8% of tethered users who use status update services.

The age of the internet user is also less likely to determine Twitter use. Among users between 18 and 24 years old, 37% use Twitter or a similar service, a percentage that decreases for each age group until reaching only 4% among the 65-and-older crowd.

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However, the rise of microblogging has not been completely even across the board. The report cites other surveys suggesting that a group of Twitter elite is emerging. A Harvard Business School study of 300,000 Twitter users found that the top 10% of Twitter users in the study accounted for 90% of tweets, while a Sysomos study of 11.5 million Twitter users found that one in five accounts had never reported tweeting at all.

Domestic Internet Usage

The Pew Internet & American Life Project also updated its American internet usage statistics, and the results, which are available in the January report titled "Internet, Broadband, and Cell Phone Statistics" by Lee Rainie, show that internet usage has reached a plateau by volume.

The latest Pew findings show that 74% of Americans use the internet, a figure that has remained more or less unchanged since 2006, when 73% of the survey respondents reported using the internet. In the spring of 2009, 79% of respondents reported using the internet, representing an all-time high.

The drop in overall internet usage was the only significant statistical change from the previous survey. The percentage of American adults who use broadband at home dropped from 63% to 60%, and the percentage of adults who use wireless held steady at 55%. Neither number fell outside the margin of error.

Even the change in overall internet usage may be explained by the addition of Spanish interviews to the survey. Only 64% of Latin-Americans use the internet, compared to 70% of African-Americans and 76% of whites. An increased number of Latinos in the survey may have affected the overall percentage. …

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