Ofcom´s new Online Nation report 2020: a picture of online consumption and online industry in the UK

posted on 13 July, 2020   (public)

The Covid-19 crisis has emphasised the shift to digital services while undermining online advertising revenues and highlighting a generation gap

Published on 24 June 2020, this yearly online nation report, released for the first time in 2019, aims at better understanding communications market and consumer behaviour in 2019 and during the lockdown. Based on research produced by Ofcom and others, the report analyses how online services are used and under which business models they operate, with a focus this year on online games, video-sharing platforms (VSPs) and online communication services.

Key trends with regard to online consumption:

  • A shift from computer-only use to mobile devices.
  • An increase of time spent online each day (around 17 minutes per day more with a significant increase during lockdown). In general, 18 to 24-year-olds spent over an hour more online each day than adults.
  • A rising popularity of online communications services, especially during lockdown (from 35% in February to 71% users of video calling in May). However, people tend to use services from a small number of providers.
  • Even if TV remains the most popular way to access news, online sources are becoming more and more attractive (+5% are using social media to access news compared to 2019).

Key trends with regard to online experience:

  • A generation gap: as observed last year, more than one in ten adults do not use the internet and media literacy research have revealed a particular gap with over 65s who have thus less access to public service information and administrative processes.
  • An overall confidence regarding people’s own online ability and understanding. However, the role played by advertising in the online business model does not seem to be easily understood (only 53% of adults identify advertising as the main source of funding for search engines).
  • A high level of concern regarding harmful experience online (89% of 12-15s and 86% of adults are concerned).

Key trends with regard to online industry:

  • Google and Facebook remain the major players: in September 2019, more than a third of time spent online is spent on the sites they own.
  • Online services not owned by the GAFAM has exponentially raised during lockdown (online meeting tools, TikTok, Houseparty for instance).
  • Online advertising revenues are increasing (compound growth rate of 20% for the past 5 years) even though the pandemic has, for the first time, created a decline in paid search and online display advertising.
  • ¾ of 5-15-year olds played games in 2019 as online games are now an accessible pastime for everyone and on any device.
  • VSP and user-generated video continue to attract people, as viewers and video makers.

Source: Ofcom