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How important are digital communications in 2015?

Author's avatar By Robert Allen 27 Aug, 2015
Essential Essential topic

The latest free report on digital media and technology use

Importance:  For students, researchers and marketers who need to convince others of the importance of digital media

Recommended link: Ofcom 2015 digital communications statistics report

Each year in August, Ofcom publish what is probably the single best source of statistics on digital communications in the UK. They follow-up with an international report in November.

The latest update for the UK has just been published and we have tried to 'boil down' the key stats from the 431! pages of the report by answering just 7 questions which capture the current state of digital communications in the UK.

Question 1. How many people have access to the Internet and digital media in 2014?

85% of British households now have access to the Internet, an increase of 3% on last year. Internet on mobile devices (i.e Smartphones) also continues to rise, making up 61% of households, a threefold leap since 2009. Among those households that have internet access, 95% have Wi-Fi routers and access their internet via Wi-Fi. This means 95% of those with access to the internet can access it via tablets or Smartphone if they have them, rather than requiring a PC.

Household broadband access 2015

Question 2. How much time is spent online?

Last year we were surprised to see that page browsing time on desktop actually fell by 14.7% and the difference was not made up by the 2.5% growth in mobile Internet browsing. We speculated that this was probably offset by people using Apps which do not count as page browsing but fundamentally are about being online- e.g WhatsApp. This chart on total time spent online seems to justify our speculation, as total time spent online for 2015 standing at nearly 90 hours a month compared to the 2014 stat of 33 hours a month browsing pages. This shows both that spending time online is more popular than ever and that increasingly being online does not have to involve looking at pages in a web browser.

Average time spent online


Question 3. Which digital devices are used to access the Internet?

The Ofcom research has a lot of detail on the type of device used to access the Internet in each household. As you will know multi-screening and multiple digital device use is commonplace. This data shows that there are now multiple laptops, tablets and smartphones in each household.

device ownership by household 2015

Mobile continues its meteoric rise, with Smartphones and tablets overtaking laptops and desktops respectively as the device people consider most important for accessing the internet.
most important device for connecting to the internet Thirty-three per cent of internet users say their smartphone is the most important device for getting online, compared to 30% who cite their laptop. This a reverse on the position in 2014, when 23% cited their phone and 40% preferred their laptop.

Question 4. Which activities is the Internet used for?

These stats haven't changed markedly since 2014, but now it’s interesting how frequent these activities are in the last week showing really active use:

  • 44% have used a social network in a last week
  • 46% have banked online in the last week
  • 32% made an online purchase in the last week

claimed use of internet 2015

Question 5. Which search platforms are used?

Google leads the pack of search engines by audience size by a considerable margin as we would imagine, but this chart is useful to remind us that other search engines still matter. Bing and Yahoo combined actually rival Google in size, so they should not be overlooked.

Search engine audiences 2015

We see mobile searches on Google have grown considerably since 2014, when just 12% Google's audience was mobile only.

Question 6. How many people in different age group use social networks?

More than seven in ten adult internet users (72%) have a social media profile, (a big jump up on 2014) and social media use is correlated to age. A majority of internet users aged 16-24 (93%), 25-34 (90%), 35-44 (80%) and 45-54 (68%) have a social media profile, such as a Facebook or Twitter account. This compares to half of 55-64s (49%) and three in ten aged 65+ (28%).

social media use by age group 2015

This chart provides a bit of an interesting and quirky stat- 41% of 16-24-year-olds would sell confess to being 'hooked' on social media. This represents a decent chunk of the population!

hooked on social media

Question 7. What is the expenditure on digital media?

UK digital advertising rose spend by 15% to £7.2bn in 2014 and accounted for 39% of estimated UK advertising expenditure. Key drivers of this growth were increases in mobile advertising, broadcaster VoD advertising and national and regional digital print advertising. Unfortunately, OfComdon't have 2015 stats on this topic, but they have published the  2014 stats in this report, which give you a good idea of the current landscape.

Online ad spend

Digital is now the leading medium went it comes to advertising, but with TV, press and direct mail still significant.

advertising expenditure by type

Digital ad spend is made up in large part by paid for search ads, but all sectors are growing strongly. Expect that other section to grow strongly in the coming years as advertisers manage to think out of the box and attract views/clicks/conversions which new types of ads that are made possible by digital but we haven't even thought of yet!

Auhtor's avatar

By Robert Allen

I was the Editor of Smart Insights between 2015-2017. I managed the blog and you will find blog articles on a range of subjects- Marketing Technology trends and latest tech developments are a regular focus, as well as exploring key marketing concepts. You can get in touch with me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. The new Editor is Carolanne Mangles.

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