USA

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 August 2004

Citation

Blake, M. (2004), "USA", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/el.2004.26322dab.003

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


USA

More older Americans go online

The number of seniors who go online has jumped by 47 per cent between 2000 and 2004. In a February 2004 survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project, 22 per cent of Americans age 65 or older reported having access to the Internet, up from 15 per cent in 2000. That translates to about 8 million Americans age 65 or older who use the Internet. By contrast, 58 per cent of Americans age 50-64, 75 per cent of 30-49 year-olds, and 77 per cent of 18-29 year-olds currently go online.

Older women have led the change and the gender ratio among “wired seniors” is now 50/50. The number of seniors who live in households with moderate amounts of income has risen dramatically, as has the number whose education ended with a high school diploma, but the online senior population is still dominated by whites, upper-income household members, and those with college degrees.

Susannah Fox, director of research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and author of the report, “Older Americans and the Internet”, says:

  • As younger Americans weave the Internet into nearly every aspect of their lives, their parents and grandparents are starting to follow suit, especially when it comes to e-mail and information searches.

There have been big increases since 2000 in the number of online seniors doing several key activities:

  • A total of 66 per cent of wired seniors had looked for health or medical information online at some point in their online life by the end of 2003. That is a 13-point jump since 2000, and a growth rate of 25 per cent.

  • A total of 66 per cent of wired seniors had done product research online by the end of 2003. That is an 18-point jump since 2000, and a growth rate of 38 per cent.

  • A total of 47 per cent of online seniors had bought something on the Internet by the end of 2003. That is an 11-point increase since 2000 and a growth rate of 31 per cent.

  • A total of 41 per cent have made travel reservations online by the end of 2003. That is a 16-point increase since 2000 and a growth rate of 64 per cent.

  • A total of 26 per cent of wired seniors had looked for religious and spiritual information by the end of 2003. That is a 15-point jump since 2000, or a growth rate of 136 per cent.

  • A total of 20 per cent of online seniors had done banking on the Internet by the end of 2003. That is a 12-point increase since 2000 and a growth rate of 150 per cent.

It is important to stress, though, that even with these high growth rates, it is usually the case that online seniors have done these online activities at lower rates than younger Internet users.

Despite the significant gains among seniors, most Americans age 65 and older live lives far removed from the Internet, know few people who use e-mail or surf the Web, and cannot imagine why they would spend money andtime learning how to use a computer. Seniors are also more likely than any other age group to be living with some kind of disability, which could hinder their capacity to get to a computer training centre or read the small type on many Web sites.

However, there is a burgeoning group of Americans who are slightly younger than retirees and who are vastly more attached to the online world. In fact, older Baby Boomer Internet users (between 50-58 years old) are more like Generation X Internet users (between 28 and 39 years old) than like their older, “mature” generational neighbours (those between 59 and 68 years old). For example:

  • A total of 75 per cent of Generation X Internet users and 75 per cent of Baby Boomer Internet users get news online, compared to 67 per cent of mature users.

  • A total of 59 per cent of Generation X Internet users and 55 per cent of Baby Boomer Internet users do research online for their job, compared to 30 per cent of Internet users between 59 and 68 years old.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project, says:

  • The “silver tsunami” of older Internet users is gaining momentum. Internet users in their 50s who work, shop and keep in touch with friends and family online will age into and transform the wired senior population.

The report, titled “Older Americans and the Internet,” is based primarily on survey data collected between 3 February and 1 March 2004.

Downloading of music files from the Internet

The recording industry campaign against those who download and swap music online has made an impact on several major fronts, but the number of Americans downloading music and sharing files online has increased, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The project’s national phone survey of 1,371 adult Internet users conducted between 3 February and 1 March 2004 shows that 14 per cent of online Americans say that at one time in their online lives they downloaded music files, but now they no longer do any downloading. That represents more than 17 million people. However, the number of people who say they download music files increased from an estimated 18 million to 23 million since the project’s November-December 2003 survey. This increase is likely due to the combined effects of many people adopting new, paid download services and, in some cases, switching to lower-profile peer-to-peer file sharing applications.

Mary Madden, a research specialist at the Pew Internet Project who co-authored the new report, said:

  • Last January we reported that after the recording industry lawsuits were launched into the public eye, there was a considerable drop in the percentage of Internet users who said they were downloading music or sharing files. We wanted to follow up on these findings as soon as possible to see if this would be a consistent trend. And while it’s clear that the industry’s legal campaign has made a lasting impression in the minds of American Internet users, we are also seeing evidence that a segment of users are simply moving away from the most popular and highly monitored file-sharing networks and are instead using alternative sources to acquire files.

New data from comScore Media Metrix, based on the company’s continuously and passively measured consumer panel, show – with variations by application and month analysed – continuing declines or stagnation in the number of people with popular peer-to-peer file sharing applications actively running on their computers.

Between November 2003 and February 2004 alone, comScore estimates that five million fewer people are actively running KaZaa. At the same time, the comScore data also show growth since last November in usage of some of the smaller file-sharing applications, such as iMesh, BitTorrent, and eMule. Moreover, March data from comScore Media Metrix indicate that more than 11 million US Internet users visited six major paid online music services – an impressive audience considering the relative newness of several entrants to the category.

Erin Hunter, senior vice president of comScore Media Metrix, said:

  • Clearly, the RIAA’s actions and policies have caused a notable impact on many consumers’ behavior, with our research showing consistent declines in KaZaa’s audience continuing through February 2004. At the same time, digital music providers including MusicMatch, iTunes, Napster and Wal-Mart have made great strides – in relatively few months – in drawing millions of consumers to a new breed of online alternatives.