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Internet / Mobile / Social Media


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The World Wide Web turned 32 on March 12, 2021.  In this relatively short period of time, "going online" has become an integral part of many Americans' daily lives – at work, at home, and at leisure.  We now have a generation of consumers who never know life without being online, and even older segments of the population have incorporated the Internet into their routines.

From the PC as geek "toy", desktops, laptops, mobile phones and tablets have evolved into essential tools.  Consumers routinely seek out audio and editorial content online.  Ever-faster connections have led to the rise of online as a primary vehicle for video entertainment – to the point where the computer and mobile devices are now referred to as "second" and "third screens" respectively.

The Internet grew rapidly since its invention and in more recent years has been accompanied by the rise of mobile connectivity:

  • As of July 2020, there are an estimated 288 million active internet users in the United States.
    • Active mobile internet users: 246.3 million
    • Active social media users: 230 million 
    • Active mobile social media users: 225.4 million

(Source: We Are Social; Hootsuite; DataReportal, Digital 2020: The United States of America)

  • Share of U.S. adults who subscribe to the internet as of June 2020 by age:
    • 18-34: 77%
    • 35-44: 84%
    • 45-64: 88%
    • 65+: 95%

(Source: Morning Consult, National Tracking Poll #2006121, June 2020)

  • The types of websites and online services visited in the past 4 weeks:
    • Search engines, 78%
    • Online stores, 68%
    • Social media websites and apps, 66%
    • Video websites and apps, 63%
    • Company websites and apps, 45%
    • News websites and apps, 37%
    • Blogs, 19%
    • Newsletters, 14%

(Source: Statista Global Consumer Survey, 2020)

Adult ownership of cell phones has also soared:

  • As of 2020, the majority of Americans (97%) now own a cellphone of some kind. 
    • 90% of Americans own a smartphone 

(Source: GfK MRI Doublebase 2020)

  • In the second quarter of 2020, about 48% of web traffic in the U.S. originated from mobile devices, slightly down from 51% in Q1.

(Source: Statista; StatCounter, July 2020 )

  • Mobile apps account for the majority of mobile internet usage.
    • As of July 2020, A18+ have been spending 215 minutes per day on mobile apps and 25 minutes per day on the mobile web.

(Source: Statista; eMarketer, July 2020)

  • Types of smartphone applications used regularly:
    • Internet browser - 75%
    • E-mail services - 69%
    • Social media apps - 67%
    • Games - 62%
    • Calendar - 54%
    • Music services - 52%

(Source: Statista Global Consumer Survey 2020)

Social media use plays a big part in American lives today

  • An estimated 233MM people 12+ are using social media in 2021

(Source: The Infinite Dial 2021 - Edison Research/Triton Digital)

  • 53% of P12+ have ever shared updates of the music they listen to with friends and family through a social media platform.

(Source: New-Music Seekers, An Infinite Dial 2020 Report - Edison Research/Triton Digital)

  • Top 5 social networks, ranked by number of active users in the U.S. (in millions): 
    • Facebook - 2,701
    • YouTube -  2,000
    • WhatsApp - 2,000
    • Facebook Messenger - 1,300
    • WeChat - 1,206

(Source: We Are Social; Hootsuite; DataReportal, Digital 2020: October Global Statshot Report)

  • As of February 2020, 48% of U.S. adults use social media as a source for discovering news.

(Source: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism; YouGov, Digital News Report 2020)

  • Percentages of global internet users by generation who say staying up-to-date with news and current events is the most common reason for using social media.
    • Gen Z: 34%
    • Millennials: 36%
    • Gen X: 37%
    • Baby Boomers: 36%
  • Average social media accounts held by internet users in each generation:
    • Gen Z: 8.7
    • Millennials: 8.9
    • Gen X: 7.1
    • Baby Boomers: 5.2

(Source: GlobalWebIndex, Social Flagship Report, 2020)

As online populations continue to grow, and time spent with digital media, marketers are diverting more of their ad budgets to online, with digital advertising becoming the #1 media category. 

  • As of January 2020, Facebook was the highest social media platform utilized by marketers worldwide.
    • According to a Social Media Examiner survey, 94% of marketers used Facebook to promote their business while another 76% did the same on Instagram.

(Source: Social Media Examiner, Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2020)

  • As of Q2 20, retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. has accounted for over 211.5 billion, up 16% from Q1 20 of 160.4 billion.

(Source: US Census Bureau, Quarterly Retail E-commerce Sales in the United States, August 2020)

For additional information/insights on Digital (Internet/Mobile/Social Media)

IAB  (Interactive Advertising Bureau)

Borrell Associates, Inc.

comScore, Inc.



Pew Research Internet Project

Can track consumer behavior and purchases
Trackable:  Electronic measurement is very precise.  Advertisers can track which PC was "exposed," which clicked through an ad, and what else they were exposed to during an online session.  The internet is unique among all media in affording follow-through sales response.  Technology now allows specific ad messages to follow users from site to site
Mimics TV:  Digital sellers are increasingly offering daypart, day-of-week, cost-per-click and GRP-based advertising models, beyond direct response tonnage buys of early days.  Additionally, TV-style commercial advertising units are increasingly available, extending exposure and awareness of creative.  CPM modules and Reach/Frequency data is extending into the marketplace
Bigger screens on phones provide more ad space
Speedier operating systems improve the ad environment
Targeted:  Most Web sites are highly appealing to specific demographics, mindsets, consumer interests, etc.  Keyword buys can even more precisely target narrow, specific audiences. Site-based media buys can:
  • Offer ideal environment and timing to generate results
  • Frequently provide ad recall, impact/sales lift indicators not offered by other media
  • Often allow product category exclusivity in exchange for sponsorships
  • Offer synergistic point-of-sale and other promotional tie-ins
Enables geo-targeting of consumers in the vicinity of a business
Can drive consumers directly to a Web site
Engagement:  Consumers are active participants in two-way interaction with both content and advertising online
Users are already online, easily directed to an advertiser's website
Flexible and Unique: An advertiser can put up a mass-appeal direct-response ad or a slick, produced video – and, unlike TV, online video ad lengths are flexible and not required to fit into commercial pods
Video ads increasingly available as smartphone use increases
Cost Efficient:  Inexpensive to buy compared to traditional electronic and print media
Consumers are attuned to interacting with their mobile device, will do so with advertising delivered on them -- nothing is more personal and connected to modern consumers than their mobile devices
Connectivity has become a lifestyle for the American consumer,  Increasing availability of quality information, entertainment, audio, and video content keep users coming back for more, expanding opportunities for online advertisers to connect with them at all hours of the day or night
Messaging reaches the consumer immediately and can be delivered at the point of purchase

Advertising is regarded as intrusive by consumers
Fragmented Audience:  The numerous TV channels available and large number of radio stations available to consumers in any given market are miniscule compared to the number of sites available to online audiences
Buying Challenges:
  • Selling practices vary widely, including scheduling patterns, post-buy analysis
  • Budgeting:  Must determine whether online placement is an advertisement or a promotional budget item.
  • Cost:  CPMs are relatively high for ads that are intrusive or highly-targeted.
  • Special creative may be required to maximize impact
Size of ads and length of messages is still limited by size of screen, bandwidth
Accidental click-thru by the consumer will increase the cost of the ad to the marketer but don't expose the consumer to the message
Exposure:  Consumer connection with content and placement varies widely from site to site
Measurement and Accountability:  Research across the industry is still nascent and many sites and services employ unconventional and/or unreliable metrics to define audience and impact.  Additionally, while it's a given that online ads have the ability to motivate consumers, proving efficiency remains elusive.  Concern has grown across the industry in recent years regarding fraudulent measurement and reporting of consumer exposures to advertising
Advertising Aversion:  Online ads such as pop-ups, banners are viewed by many consumers as too intrusive.  Blockers and other forms of avoidance are a problem for advertisers
Fraud:  With measurement minimal or lacking altogether, the digital industry must confront controversy regarding criminal activity surrounding ads, and whether actual consumers or "bots" have actually accessed ads online
Do Not Track Law:  It is illegal for advertisers, retailers, etc., to track consumers' movements across the Internet
Privacy issues:  In addition to the legality of the practice, consumers are not receptive to online advertisers, retailers, etc., tracking them.  Many find ads following them across sites to be "creepy" or offensive, even "evil."
Lack of Reach:  Internet use among the U.S. population is still limited as only 9 in 10 adults use the internet. Therefore a segment of the population will not be reached by internet/mobile/or socials media ads. 
(Source: Pew Research Center, Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet 2018)
As the adoption of traditional broadband service has slowed in recent years, a growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. Today one-in-five American adults are "smartphone-only" internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service.

Immediacy:  Advertising messages on both radio and the Internet reach consumers immediately.  Radio ads reach many listeners at a single time, while online ads present themselves when the user decides to log on to the ‘Net.  Exposure to advertising on both is complementary and will reach consumers at times when they might not have access to one medium or the other
Increase Reach:  With a variety of formats in every market and national networks also delivering programming directed to specific demographic or interest groups, Radio allows advertisers to zero in on large numbers of consumers in the age demographics and socio-economic characteristics they need to reach to successfully market their products and services. While Web sites also deliver niche markets, many are small and users are not all on the site at the same time.  Radio supplements the somewhat narrower reach of most Web sites, resulting in effective exposure across platforms.
Timing:  Radio spots air at certain specified times designated by the advertiser.  Digital advertising's timing is more random, reaching the consumer at whatever point they log on to devices.  Each has the capability to remind consumers of the other and reinforce messaging impact
Cut through the clutter:  Radio has done an effective job of cutting down on commercial spot loads in recent years, whereas the burgeoning popularity of the Internet among marketers has created a cluttered environment online.  A campaign on radio will showcase the advertiser's message and can direct listeners to a site
Build Trust:  Radio represents a trusted source for information and entertainment among consumers; many Americans continue to exercise caution in using the Internet and believing what they read or hear online.  Radio adds credibility to an Internet-radio campaign mix
Enhance Recall:  When radio is combined with Internet advertising, it can increase brand recall and help drive awareness
For more information on radio:
Statistics and Trends:

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