Thursday, July 14, 2016

UK Adults media use and attitudes

I'll be highlighting a couple of recent reports from Ofcom (the UK's communications watchdog, which has an excellent research programme). The substantial report Adults’ media use and attitudes (April 2016) "provides research that looks at media use, attitudes and understanding, and how these change over time [they compare results with their previous surveys], with a particular focus on those groups that tend not to participate digitally." 1841 adults (in the UK) were surveyed in their homes in September-October 2015. It's at
The report surveyed use of search engines, apps, specific types of device, online games (including mobile games) as well as more obvious types of media. From the extracts from "overview" below, you can see that the results tie in with concerns from the information and library community about critical use of the internet and "searchification". One chapter of the report is on "Media attitudes and critical understanding" and some results reveal the continued need for information literacy e.g. "only half of adults aged 16+ (49%) who use search engines identified sponsored links on Google as advertising" (p130). Those who are new to the internet and "narrow users", who had said that they always tend to use the same set of websites and apps, were less likely to recognise advertising and "Narrow users are less likely to use search engines, and are less likely to understand how search engines work" (p191). As another random fact "fewer internet users said they used Wikipedia when looking for information online [than in the previous year's survey] (44% vs. 54% in 2014)." (p 11.)

This is most of what it summarises in the "overview" of the report
- "There has been a sizeable increase in the proportion of internet users saying they only use websites or apps that they’ve used before (42% vs 31% in 2014).... This may be linked to the growing tendency to use “digital intermediaries” such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Amazon for much activity. This change in use patterns underlines the growing importance of critical literacy skills. Even as search engines remain the default means of accessing information, levels of understanding remain mixed as to what their results signify, and half of search engine users are unable to correctly identify ads or sponsored links at the top of many results pages."
- "There has been a considerable rise (from 6% in 2014 to 16% in 2015) in the proportion of adults who only use smartphones or tablets to go online, and not a PC/laptop. In other words, these newer devices are not just supplementing PCs/laptops, but are starting to replace them. This pattern is seen across all ages of adults, across all socio-economic groups and for males and females, but is particularly marked among newer users, young people and those in DE households. This move away from PCs and laptops and towards smartphones and tablets has the potential to make an impact in a number of areas. There are implications for plurality: as people may use fewer sources for their content and services, and prefer to use a small subset of apps or digital intermediaries rather than search for a wider range of material, then discoverability mechanisms become more important. There are also implications for usability, as the size of the device may hamper some types of use e.g. typing longer forms/documents; and online habits, as people’s use is more dependent on their data consumption and can diminish considerably as monthly allowances are used up." This is explored further in another report which I'll blog tomorrow.
- "There is an increasing preference for mobile phones above more traditional media devices. From 2005 - 2014, adults were most likely to say they would miss their TV set the most. Now mobile phones are the most-missed media device. "
- "There is increasing polarity between different age groups in terms of communications activity. Whereas 25 years ago, all age groups shared just two common means of communication – landlines and letters – the landscape is now considerably more varied, and there is a risk that common means of communication that cut across demographics are becoming increasingly rare, with implications for social connectivity and information-sharing." (this is an interesting conclusion that I don't think gets explored further in the report).
Photo by Sheila webber: hydrangea, July 2016

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