Published by Grant Blank on 15 February 2012
Results from the 2011 wave of Oxford Internet Surveys show several notable trends. Mobile phones have become virtually universal and nearly half (49%) of users used them to access the Internet. In addition to mobile phones, almost one-third of Internet users had a reader or a tablet, and 59% had access to the Internet via one or more of these devices other than a personal computer. Households with three or more computers have increased from 3% in 2003 to 18% in 2011.
Much of the commentary on these trends focuses on products and their performance; asking questions like how well are iPads selling? Or how do Android devices compare to an iPad? Or what is the latest Samsung smartphone. This is a product-centered approach, but consumer products come and go in a year or two. We believe that something more fundamental is going on. To address this underlying shift we combined these trends to define a “Next Generation User”. A Next Generation User has two characteristics: (1) they use at least two Internet applications on their smartphone (i.e. email and weather) and (2) they own at least two of the following devices: a tablet, a reader or three or more computers. This new pattern of access is reshaping the use and impact of the Internet.
Next Generation users have emerged across all age groups and comprise 44% of online British population. Yet, they did not appear overnight. Once we identified them we could find them in prior waves – their proportion grew from 20% of Internet users in 2007 to 44% in 2011.
Inevitably, some may think that Next Generation Users are mostly students and young people who were “born digital. In fact employed people are about as likely as students to be Next Generation Users. Since there are many more employed people than students, they make up the bulk of Next Generation Users. Further, the employed are likely to be older since prime employment years are ages 25-55. The average Next Generation User is an employed person over age 35.
Next Generation Users are sharply different in what they do online. They produce content for the web at rates 20 percentage points higher than first generation users. They are more than twice as likely as first generation users to produce complex kinds of content like owning a personal website or blogging.
Next Generation users make striking use of the Internet for entertainment and leisure. They are again often 20 percentage points more likely to use the Internet for entertainment than first generation users. They have thoroughly integrated the Internet into leisure.
Access to new devices is not just about changing how we do things, it is changing what we do and where we do it. Next generation users appear to be empowered, compared to the first generation users, in creating content, enjoying entertainment online, and accessing information in ways and at times and locations that fit into their everyday life and work.
(For a more detailed analysis of Next Generation Users see the 2011 OxIS Report at www.oii.ox.ac.uk/publications/oxis2011_report.pdf.)