Ofcom has published an interesting report into the use of internet services in the UK. Its Online Nation is an annual report, published for the first time last year, that covers online consumers, the online industry, and specific aspects of the online experience. It checks emerging tech and trends, and this year noted a significant impact on internet use due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Online Nation research says that in April 2020, during the height of lockdown, UK adults spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online – up from just under three and a half hours in September last year. This isn't really surprising given the pressure to work, study, and shop from home, online - rather than visiting physical venues for these essential activities.
As well as the essential activities mentioned above, the internet was leaned-upon for entertainment and social activities. In their spare time UK internet users consumed lots more video streams, played more games, and video conferenced more than ever. Some illustrative figures that Ofcom shared with HEXUS in an email are bullet pointed below:
- TikTok reached 12.9 million UK adult visitors in April, up from just 5.4 million in January,
- Twitch saw UK visitors increase from 2.3 million to 4.2 million in the same period,
- Houseparty, an app which combines group video-calls with games and quizzes, grew from 175,000 adult visitors in January to 4 million in April,
- Zoom, a virtual meeting platform, grew from 0.66 million users to 13 million over the same period.
Online content creator numbers grew, and existing creators started to churn out more content to the willing masses. Ofcom says that its latest survey reveals that of those that use video-sharing sites and apps, 40 per cent of adults have created and uploaded their own videos, and 59 per cent of older children have done similarly. It is reported that 17 per cent of vloggers are making some income from their activity.
Ofcom asserts that there was already a trend in place where UK internet users were moving away from traditional calls and texts to new chat and video conferencing technologies. The pandemic has accelerated this with more than seven out of ten making video calls at least once a week. This trend has been embraced by older internet users too.
"Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy," said Yih-Choung Teh, Group Director of Strategy and Research at Ofcom. "Coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time."
Of course, Ofcom isn't there to simply observe these trends, and Teh reminded us of its scope; "As the way we communicate evolves and people broaden their online horizons, our role is to help ensure that people have a positive experience, and that they're safe and protected."