uptake and persistence
This page highlights figures about the uptake of communication
technologies and services, supplementing the Communications
and the Metrics & Statistics guide.
It covers -
time to reach US audience of 50 million
AM radio - 38 years
television - 13 years
web - 4 years
time to reach 70% of households
Another measure is provided by the time taken to reach
a specific number of households. Figures published by
the US Census Bureau for example suggest that the 70%
mark was reached -
- 49 years
telephone - 63 years
mobile phone - 20 years
AM radio - 15 years
FM radio - 5 years
B&W television - 10 years
colour television - 20 years
cable television - 37
VCR - 10 years
answering machine - 12 years
microwave oven - 30 years
mobile phone - 13 years
web - 7 years
As of 1955 some 95% of US households are claimed as owning
an electric refrigerator, with the UK supposedly reaching
the 75% mark as late as 1980.
A perspective on Australian and overseas uptake of particular
media and non-ICT devices is provided in figures on the
following page of this Note.
In summary, time taken to reach 70% of Australian households
- 17 years
microwave ovens - 26 years
CD player - 19 years
Australian telecoms traffic
data v voice
global telecommunication traffic generated by data transmission
exceeds traffic generated by voice transmission in 2001
(up from 15-25% in 1997)
selected internet stats
The size & shape page
of our metrics guide points to various internet statistics,
from which we've extracted -
of registered domains (June 00) - 17.75 million, 100%
number of hosts (January 00) - 88 million
number of secure servers (May 00) - 74 thousand, 100%
time to register first million domain names - four years
time to move from 4 to 5 million names - three months
One perspective on uptake of communication technologies
is provided by statistics about spending on hardware and
Susan Douglas' Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 1987) for example
notes US growth in the sale of radio equipment - from
US$60 million in 1922 to US$843 million in 1929.
Year - US$m sales
1922 - 60
1923 - 136
1924 - 358
1925 - 430
1926 - 506
1927 - 426
1928 - 651
1929 - 843
The US 2005 Electronic Substitution for Mail: Models
and Results, Myth and Reality study (PDF)
questions forecasts about the imminent death of the public
mail system, noting that volumes have increased rather
than shrunk in tandem with uptake of electronic messaging.
Much of that increase, of course, relates to printed junk
Normalisation of the online population means that use
of the net increasingly reflects offline personal pursuits
such as hobbies, consumption of music and videos, engagement
with adult content and personal relationships.
For those online, the net has come to serve as a universal
65% of the US online population reported
going online "to browse just for fun" as of
January 2002, 44% growth on March 2000. 22% supposedly
go online "just for fun" on a typical day.
That is consistent with UK figures
from Sheffield University in January 2003, with 59% of
respondents going online "for fun".
In 2006 the Pew Internet Project reported
that around two-thirds of all US internet users "have
tried surfing the Web", with some 40 million people
indicating that they went "surfing for fun"
on a typical day in December 2005. Supposedly
of online men were surfing for fun on an average day
in December, compared with 26% of women.
of internet users between ages 18 – 29 were browsing
for fun on an average day; 31% of those ages 30 –
49; 24% of those over age 50.
of home broadband users were browsing for fun on a typical
day, compared with 23% of dial up users.
Figures about online music use are contentious, given
claims by some groups that downloading
is as american as apple pie (and indeed specifically permitted
in the Constitution) and by other groups that it is either
an avocation of a minority of teenage terrorists or an
epidemic that means the end of civilisation as we know
it (starting with US$5bn losses).
Supposedly 32% of US users have downloaded music (as of
October 2002), with the number of users who download on
a typical day doubling from 3 million to 6 million between
2000 and 2002. 5% of the online US population was downloading
music on an average day in October 2002, up from the 3%
that reported doing so in the summer of 2000. The December
2003 Pew I&AM report suggested that online men are
more likely than women to download music, that "this
activity is particularly appealing to online minorities"
and those with broadband connections, and that it is biased
towards young adults and those with modest household incomes.
The figures do not differentiate between illicit and licit
downloads, ie not all downloading breaches copyright.
In the US 37% of users are reported to have played games
online as of September 2002, a 45% growth from March 2000.
Men are more likely than women to have played games online;
the activity is most popular among young adult users and
minority groups but is strongly associated with broadband
connections and high levels of experience online.
hobbies and sports
The December 2003 Pew I&AM report suggested that
77% of US users (81% men, 73% women) had "searched
for hobby or interest information online" as of January
2002, up 40% from March 2000. Pew estimates the number
of users researching hobbies on a typical day as around
19%. Supposedly 33% of users who had recently started
a new hobby said the net played a "crucial or important"
role in taking up that new activity. 65% of Sheffield's
UK users report using the net to find hobby information.
Overall, the younger the user, the more likely that person
is to have sought out hobby information online, although
US teenagers are significantly less likely to go to hobby
sites compared to adult users. Seeking information on
hobbies has been one of the more popular activities among
the over-64 cohort.
44% of US users have checked for sports scores or information
online. Consistent with broader offline demographics younger
users are the most likely age cohorts to seek sports information
online. Pew suggests that in September 2002 some 51% of
the 18-29 age cohort reported checking for sports information,
45% of the 30-49 cohort, 32% of the 50-64 cohort and 38%
of those older than 64.
blogs and other content creation
The separate profile about weblogs
suggests that reports about the 'blogging revolution'
have been overstated and pointed to detailed studies noting
that few blogs last more than a couple of weeks. Having
an internet connection unsurprisingly doesn't mean that
you have something to say, the ability to say it or an
Only a small part of the online population has contributed
to a Wiki and outside academia
there has been little self-publishing.
19% of Pew's users (arguably reflecting sample problems
and not truly representative of the online population)
reported that they had created online content as of October
2002. That includes "helping to build a Web site,
creating an online diary, or posting their thoughts on
an online bulletin board or other online community".
The October 2002 figure is down on that of January 2002,
when 20% of Pew's online Americans said they had created
content for the web. Supposedly 34% of broadband users
said they had created content (mostly in the course of
employment?) and 11% had done so the day before, although
only 4% of all users were creating content on a typical
day. Other reports suggest that bloggers are typically
under 25, with a strong bias towards middle class females.
In 2004 Pew announced
44% of Internet users have created content for the online
world through building or posting to Web sites, creating
blogs, and sharing files ...
have posted photographs to web sites
have posted written material on sites (2% maintain blogs)
have posted artwork on sites
have contributed audio files to sites, 3% have contributed
maintain their own sites
have posted comments to an online newsgroup (a smaller
fraction has posted video, audio, or photo files to
have contributed material to sites run by their businesses.
have contributed material to sites run by religious,
professional or other organisations
have web cams running that allow other internet users
to see live pictures of them and their surroundings
have contributed material to sites created for their
figures are reflective of a small sample of US users,
rather than the global internet population, and should
be treated with considerable caution.
Most studies suggest that the demographics of online gambling
are broadly similar to those of the offline gambling population,
with a spread of income, gender and education. Nielsen-Netratings
claims that 5.9 million Europeans visited online gambling
sites in January 2003, up from 2.8 million in the preceding
This site features a more detailed profile about consumption
of online adult content,
including erotic chat, still images and video.
Contrary to claims by particular censorship
advocates, in advanced economies consumption of online
'smut' does not appear to be restricted to male teens,
gay males or 'dirty old men'. As with over-the-counter
rental/purchase of adult videos and print material, there
is a spread of ages, income, education and gender.
This site features a more detailed profile about online
In summary, use of the net for relationships - whether
through chat and email
(particularly popular among youth) or through matchmaking
sites - does not exhibit strong age, education, gender,
income or preference biases beyond that of the online
There is disagreement about the impact of the net
on consumption of 'traditional media', in particular claims
that it has significantly eroded television viewing or
attendance at cinemas and replaced purchase of newspapers.
Some early surveys for example suggested that 40% of users
reported watching "less" television, in particular
free-to-air broadcast television. Those reports were embraced
by some readers of works such as Joseph Turow's Breaking
Up America: Advertisers & the New Media World
(Chicago: Chicago Uni Press 1997) and Bruce Owen's The
Internet Challenge To Television (Cambridge: Harvard
Uni Press 1999).
Closer examination of the data suggests that the reduction
of time spent in front of the box varied considerably
and that many users reduced their viewing by under 30
minutes per day. More recent studies indicate that many
users are 'multi-tasking', ie listening to a radio broadcast
(or recorded music on a CD or device such as an iPod)
or a television broadcast while surfing the net.
There appears to be no Australian or global correlation
between reduced movie consumption and the net, with fluctuations
in cinema audiences instead reflecting the state of the
economy and the quality of offerings from the film studios.
next page (devices)