If you're 16 and surfing the web, the chances are good you're looking for fun. “Dating, gaming, chatting online, and downloading music are the preserves of the 16 - 24s,” says Knott. About 50% of all online gaming, dating, chatting and music downloading is done by the 16 - 24-year-olds. AMPS 2007B also shows a higher than average rate of online radio listening, well above any other age group.
More serious pursuits, such as looking up the latest news, aren't that high on the agenda. “Nor is Internet banking or shopping,” says Knott. “Youngsters also have well below-average usage of email - only half go online to send email. They're far more into mobile communication. Marketers should give careful consideration before using email marketing campaigns to reach this market. Youngsters also show slightly lower than average scores for reading a magazine or newspaper online.”
One age bracket up, and while the fun-seeking is still in evidence, more serious activities are creeping into the online repertoire. The gaming, chatting and dating has tapered off significantly in the 25 - 34 age bracket, with online shopping and banking rising sharply.
“We find that as people get more self-sufficient, moving into their careers, their online activities become more productive in nature,” says Knott. “Their sense of the greater scheme of things is also seen, as going online to find the latest news now increases in significance.”
The 35 - 49-year-olds are the great online bankers and shoppers. Just over 42% of online banking is done by this group, while 48% of online shoppers fall into this age bracket. “Apart from bearing in mind the predominant age of online shoppers, marketers should also note that the majority of online shoppers are based in Gauteng (42.5%), followed by 22.2% in the Western Cape, 16.3% in KwaZulu-Natal, and 8.3% in the Eastern Cape. Good distribution is needed in these areas.”
The 35 - 49 bracket likes working online with money, with online share-trading and gambling featuring alongside its banking activities. Over 46% of online share trading and 34% of gambling is done by this group.
In terms of communication, over one-third of all emailers are in this age group, and instant messaging is also big - 36% of all IM is done by this group. There is below-average interest in gaming, dating (although 25% of online dating is done by this group), chatting and music downloads.
Finally, to the most technologically resistant group of all, the 50+ age group. Only 6% of those aged over 50 access the Internet, compared to one in 10 of those younger than 50. Eighty five percent of emails are sent and received by adults younger than 50. “We have found with new mobile and digital technology, that people over 50 who are using it are doing so because their grandchildren are forcing them to. The younger generation is pushing the technology up the generations, which is a worldwide trend. It's one step on from the children teaching the parents how to set up the VCR.”
This group uses the Internet predominantly for online banking, but unlike the 35 - 49s, online shopping is a less important activity. Only 13.2% of online shopping is being done by this group, similar to the low 14.8% of the 16 - 24s. “The 50+ age bracket has very little interest in the more social side of the net, with only tiny amounts of gaming, dating, chatting, downloading music, and listening to the radio being picked up,” adds Knott.
“This picture of Internet usage across the generations is, however, a product of the Internet access we have in South Africa. I believe it will change tremendously once we get cheaper, more widespread broadband,” she says. “Currently, many people are going online quickly, doing what they need to do, and then getting off - they're not lingering and browsing. With broadband, which should arrive before 2010, we will see an explosion of Internet use, which will impact drastically on other media, although the high cost of computer hardware will remain a barrier.”