This morning Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, released its latest ‘Online Nation’ report, an annual piece of research into how UK users spend their time online.
The wide-ranging report, which covers everything from internet take-up rates to developments into the metaverse, gives some interesting hard data into how UK users’ relationship with the internet is evolving. Ofcom’s data, drawn from its own research as well as research from third-party organisations, backs up some commonly held beliefs about the online ecosystem, while providing a reality check to others:
Meta Apps Still Dominate
Despite its financial headwinds, and perceptions that at least some of its apps are becoming less relevant for younger users, Meta still dominates in the UK app marketplace. Meta’s apps Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp are the four apps with the most daily visits in the UK.
And perhaps surprisingly, Facebook received the most daily visits of the four, with 61 percent of smartphone-using UK adults using the app each day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Facebook’s high total reach is due in part to its relative popularity with older generations. Thirty-three percent of Facebook’s audience is 55 or over.
On the other end of the spectrum, while TikTok is still growing significantly in the UK, the Online Nations report shows it still has a long way to go to be competing with Meta in terms of reach. While Facebook and Messenger reach 94 percent of UK adults in total, and Instagram reaches 73 percent, TikTok reaches 31 percent – sitting behind LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Tech Platforms are Letting Women Down
Following the release of the report, Ofcom called on tech platforms to “to act now to make the online world a safer space for women and girls”, as data shows that women are more affected by discriminatory, hateful and trolling content.
Ofcom’s data found that men were actually more likely to have experienced potentially harmful behaviour in the last four week (64 percent versus 60 percent for women). But women were more likely to be negatively affected when they do encounter harmful content. More than two in five women (43 percent) say they felt bothered by harmful content they recently came across online, compared to a third of men (33 percent). And women from a minority ethnic background are particularly likely to be troubled by their harmful online experiences (52 percent compared to 42 percent of white women).
This is likely due to the types of harmful behaviour women are more likely to see, compared with men. While men were more likely to have seen scam, fraud or phishing content, misinformation, or violent content, women were more likely to have seen misogynistic content and content relating to suicide, or to negative body image.
Gaming Has Gone Mainstream
Gaming companies and related media businesses have been making the point for years that gaming is no longer a niche interest – and Ofcom’s data backs up this perception.
Thirty-nine percent of adults over 16 play games online according to Ofcom, and 58 percent of gamers now pay for a subscription gaming service. But the most surprising datapoint was that 58 percent of UK individuals aged 13-64 watch video-games related content. This suggests that it’s not just casual gaming that’s gone mainstream – but rather wider audiences are taking a more in-depth interest in games.
YouTube is the most popular platform for watching games-related content, used by 74 percent of those who watch gaming content. Meanwhile live streaming platform Twitch is used by 25 percent of games content viewers.
Advertising Accounts for 68 Percent of Online Revenues
Total online revenues (excluding ecommerce) grew by 31 percent last year to £33.5 billion according to Ofcom, and advertising continues to make up the majority of this.
In 2021 advertising revenues made up 68 percent of total online revenues, compared with 15 percent for subscription revenues, and 16 percent for transactional revenues.
And advertising actually grew its share of total online revenues, up from 63 percent in 2020. While publishers and streaming services alike have looked to subscriptions to grow revenues over the past few years, advertising in 2021 accounted for a higher proportion of total revenues than at any other point in at least five years, according to Ofcom.
BBC is Still Most-Used News Service By Far
Amid conversations over future funding for the BBC and a debate over whether it delivers value for money for UK users, the BBC remained by far the most visited news service in the UK.
On average, thirty percent of UK online adults visited BBC news daily in September last year. This was significantly more than competitors – The Daily Mail and the Sun were both visited daily by eight percent of online adults, while The Guardian was visited by seven percent daily, and The Mirror by six percent.
The Online Nations reports also found that local and regional news services still have high levels of reach. In September 2021, the Daily Record site was accessed by 42 percent of online adults in Scotland, Wales Online by 60 percent of online adults in Wales and Belfast Live by 47 percent of online adults in Northern Ireland.