Fast forward to 2011, though, and the answer to that same question has changed dramatically.
Now, the fraction of internet users who say they don’t spend any of their downtime online has dropped to just 42 percent, a trend I suspect will continue in the foreseeable future.
These findings come from studies performed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project both then and now. In telephone surveys conducted in English and Spanish, more than 2,200 people were asked a series of questions about their internet usage, and regardless of age group, gender, ethnicity, education or income, the researchers saw increases across the board in the percentages of people who go online simply as a diversion from other activities.
Perhaps predictably, the 18- to 29-year old age group sported the highest percentage of those who log on for fun. In 2011, 81 percent of active internet users aged 18-29 said they go online line at least occasionally for no other reason than to pass the time.
Although the questions in this particular survey did not drill down to what specific kinds of activities respondents considered to be fun or diversionary, the rise in internet use for leisure over the past decade does correlate to a number of other factors, including:
- Vastly improved accessibility. (It’s much easier to hop online now than it was back in days of dial-up!)
- The ability to log on from almost anywhere –thanks to wi-fi, smartphones, notebooks and tablets.
- Advancements in both audio and video web capabilities, making internet viewing and listening much easier and more enjoyable than it was 10 years ago.
- The proliferation of free or inexpensive online access to music, movies, videos, talk shows, libraries, magazines and more.
- The burgeoning popularity of social media and its real time global connectivity.
- The increasing sophistication of online gaming graphics, choices and multiplayer possibilities.
- The growing mainstream acceptance of going to online sites in search of personal relationships and like-minded people.
In other words, the kinds of activities that people once turned to newspapers, magazines, radio, television, shopping malls and their immediate family and friends for now can all be done online –and usually with greater ease, immediacy and gratification than ever before.
Since consumers are online, marketing messages need to be there, too. Marketers need to engage with consumers across multiple online platforms, and we must continue to seek out ways to integrate traditional marketing strategies with the ever-expanding –and ever-more-popular –digital world.