UK: Media Consumer Survey 2013 - Love In A Cold Climate

Last Updated: 25 April 2013
Article by Deloitte Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017


24.2 million people in the UK watched Danny Boyle's spectacular opening to the 2012 London Olympic Games. At the time, this staggering audience size had only once been exceeded in this country: in 1981, by Del and Rodney Trotter dressing up as Batman and Robin in Only Fools and Horses.

Two weeks later, the closing ceremony to the same Games would eclipse even the caped crusaders. 24.6 million people tuned in.

2012 was a defining media year. Whether it was millions cheering on their heroes on TV, online and in the streets, football fans gripped by a last minute twist in the twentieth Premier League Championship, previously unheard-of authors breaking records for book sales, or chilling propaganda distributed on social networks, media reached into our lives more intensely than ever before.

Our seventh annual Media Consumer Survey shows that 65 per cent of respondents have access to a smartphone and a third have a tablet in their household. This suggests that consumption of media is set to grow further. It seems that despite the frosty economic climate, UK consumers still seem besotted by high quality professionally-produced media and the devices on which they consume it. To reflect the breadth of consumption habits that exist in today's market, we have chosen to first focus on how UK consumers regard the drivers of change in the market – the digital media and device economies – and then look at their effects on four media markets: TV, news and magazines, books and video gaming.

And in light of the continuing popularity of professionally-produced media, and the relative lack of popularity of user generated content, we have also chosen to rename the survey programme. Although it is now simply 'Media Consumer Survey', we hope you still enjoy our perspectives.


Signs of a divide in digital generations grow

Facebook had its initial public offering (IPO) on 18 May 20121. This was the biggest IPO in Internet history2, with a peak market capitalisation of $104 billion3. Facebook was certainly one of the biggest business stories of 2012, not least for its April 2012 acquisition of two-year old start-up Instagram for $715 million in cash and shares4.

Needless to say, Facebook is big in the UK. According to our survey, on average, the UK consumer has 240 friends on Facebook and undertakes on average 3.5 actions on the site each day, where an action is defined as updating their status or commenting on or 'liking' something5. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites appear to be playing an increasingly important role in the media lifestyle of UK consumers.

The reality is that Facebook is the only mass market social network in the UK. Other digital media such as Twitter and Instagram have low penetration and are popular only among early adopters. Only 30 per cent of early adopters use Twitter and one in ten are Instagram subscribers (see Figure 1).

It is important for those attempting to reach consumers through social networks to understand that these are still very much a niche service, and careful targeting is necessary. Facebook for example is marginally more popular amongst the C2DE social groups6; Twitter has greater penetration among the ABC1 groups but is still much less popular than Facebook.

Social as a research and advertising medium

Our survey suggests that consumers of all ages consider social networks to be useful research tools when looking for new products, 24 per cent of consumers believe social network sites are important in learning about new products or services; however they are less convinced that digital and online advertising is more influential in the buying decision than traditional alternatives. 40 per cent of 14 to 17 year olds believe this to be the case but older age groups are much less convinced7 (see Figure 2).

When compared to other types of online advertising, adverts delivered through social networks are rated the most influential by those aged between 14 and 24. In comparison, older respondents considered search engine advertising to be the most influential. Interestingly, 18 to 24 year olds rated search engine advertising second, followed by pre-roll videos (adverts viewed before you can watch an online video) in third place. Search did not feature at all in the top three most influential online advertising types for 14 to 17 year olds. Likewise, social network ads did not feature in the top three for respondents aged over 25.

It seems that there is a digital divide in the online population between the over 25s who are "search-first" in their Internet usage and the under 24s, who are "social first". If this is the case, there are profound implications for the business models of those companies that advertise online.

Fragmentation in usage grows

There is further evidence that online usage is increasingly fragmenting as consumers become more comfortable with the services available and learn to customise their experience.

Fragmentation in usage of the Internet is apparent from the number of different reasons that UK consumers have for using the Internet. On average, our survey respondents did 6.2 different things online in a week. Men exhibited more variation, averaging 6.6 activities compared with 5.8 for women.

Surprisingly, age was not a significant factor in this fragmentation of activity. There was very little variation between the youngest age group we surveyed (14 to 17 year olds), who on average did 6.8 discrete activities in a week, and 35 to 44 year olds, who did 6.5. Only in the above 45 age group was the variation in usage significantly less.

Also surprising is the fact that respondents were more likely to use the Internet for comparatively traditional activities such as reading local and national news or researching their hobbies, rather than for using social networks. Only in the under 24 age groups did the use of the Internet for social networking match its use for accessing news and information. This shows again how online usage is diverging between the generation who have grown up with social networks and those whose first experiences with the web were prior to Web 2.08.

Social services

Female respondents use fewer online services, whereas male respondents show early adopter behaviour and used new online services sooner than women. This difference in behaviour between the genders is also apparent in our research into more specialised online services, such as virtual learning environments.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents with school-aged children told us that their school provided a virtual learning environment and just under half (46 per cent) logged in at least once a month to check on their child's progress. Fathers were 30 per cent more likely than mothers to log in at least once a month.

An online service that men and women do use equally is eGovernment. A quarter of respondents had paid their council tax online in 2012, half had paid car tax and a third the BBC TV licence fee online, with no significant variation between male and female respondents. Respondents in the ABC1 social groups were between 30 and 40 per cent more likely to have paid for these services online than those in the C2DE social groups, demonstrating the need for increased engagement of this part of the society.

Peer-to-peer file sharing10: not just a young man's game

Twenty-eight per cent of respondents had used a peer-to-peer file sharing service between May and October 2012, with men (38 per cent) more than twice as likely as women (17 per cent) to have used one. Of those who had used one at all, older respondents were just as likely as younger age groups to have downloaded something during the previous week, contradicting the commonly-held view that file sharing is solely a youth pastime11.

This finding is borne out by the length of time respondents had been participating in file sharing, with many telling us they had been doing it since the early 2000s. Behaviour from the days of the Internet's Wild West12 seemingly dies hard, even in the second decade of the new millennium (see Figure 3).

Music is the most commonly pirated type of media, with half of all positive respondents having downloaded at least one music track in the last six months. TV series (43 per cent) were the second most commonly-shared, closely followed by feature films (40 per cent).13

It comes as little surprise that 'it's free' was the most common reason for using file sharing sites, although 'because I can't get the content in the UK' (24 per cent) came second. In more positive news for the media industry, it appears that some of the legislative pressure and marketing effort does seem to be having an effect on behaviours. The most commonly-given reason for not pirating content was fear of getting caught.14

Is it time to start talking about 'traditional online media' too?

In summary, 2012 was a year of continued evolution in demand for Internet services, not the revolution in access that some commentators would prefer us to believe. Social networks – particularly Facebook – are becoming well-established, but as with traditional media there is evidence to indicate increasing differences in behaviour between older and younger age groups.

Even search – the success story of the Internet's last 15 years – is not immune from the passage of time. Our survey suggests that younger age groups regard social, rather than search as the centre of their online experience. Could it be that Internet business models are once again disrupting themselves? Although the question is unlikely to be answered in 2013, it is likely to be a fascinating year.

To read this Survey in full, please click here.


1 Source: Facebook IPO: social network makes stock market debut – Friday 18 May, Guardian, 18 May 2012. See:

2 Source: The 10 Biggest Internet IPOs, CNBC, 18 May 2012. See:

3 Source: Facebook valued at $104bn as share price unveiled, BBC, 17 May 2012. See:

4 Source: Facebook's 'billion dollar' Instagram acquisition to actually cost $715 million, TheVerge, 24 October 2012. See:

5 Source: Deloitte, YouGov Post-Digital Consumer Survey, base 2,033 UK respondents, from 8 to 11 October 2012

6 The NRS social grades are a system of demographic classification used in the UK. ABC1 refers to households in which the head of the household is in a higher managerial, administrative or professional; intermediate managerial, administrative or professional; or supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional role. C2DE refers to households in which the head of the household is a skilled manual worker; semi or unskilled manual worker or is a casual or lowest grade workers, a pensioner or someone who depends on the welfare state for their income

7 Positive responses to the statement: "social media sites are important tools to learn about new products and services". Source: Deloitte, YouGov Media Consumer Survey, base 2,085 UK respondents

8 The term 'Web 2.0' was first used in 1999. Source: Web 2.0, Wikipedia. See:

9 Source: Deloitte, YouGov Post-Digital Consumer Survey, base 2,033 UK respondents, from 8 to 11 October 2012. Of the 13 per cent of the 13 per cent of male respondents (base: 1,001) and 4 per cent of female respondents (base: 1032) answered positively to the question 'I'm always keen to use new technology products as soon as they enter the market'

10 Peer-to-peer file sharing is the practice that allows users that use a particular software to connect into a peer- to-peer network to search for shared files on the computers of other users connected to the network.

11 Source: It's official: America a land of young, casual pirates, ArsTechnica, 16 November 2011. See:

12 Source: Tarnation! Experts Agree Internet Like 'Wild West' Since at Least 1994, The New York Observer, 14 November 2008. See:

13 Source: Deloitte, YouGov Post-Digital Consumer Survey, base 2,033 UK respondents, from 8 to 11 October 2012

14 Source: Deloitte, YouGov Post-Digital Consumer Survey, base 2,033 UK respondents, from 8 to 11 October 2012

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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