Thursday, December 16, 2010

Generations Online in 2010

The latest Pew Internet study is out: Generations Online in 2010 Pew Internet and American Life Project. So, how are the different generations using the Internet in their American lives?

Apparently none of them are making phone calls but they are using their phones to access the interwebz. Actually, Pew didn't ask about VoIP and maybe people who have phone service through their Internet providers don't realize they're using the interwebz to make phone calls. OK, I only thought about that because it's what I've been writing about in my work writing life. Well, that and I just had lunch with a couple of telecoms colleagues. I love it when I can have a lunch time conversation where I mention SIP and H.323 and everybody knows what I'm talking about. End of current VoIP digression.

What's really interesting about the Pew report is the way various news organizations summarize it in their headlines. The top themes seem to be blogging in decline and and (gasp, shudder) old people using the Internet. Here is a sampling of the headlines, in the order they showed up on Google News when ordered by relevance:

Pew study: Everyone uses email, but blogging is on decline USA Today (blog) - Stan Schroeder
Blogging 'Peaks,' But Reports Of Its Death Are ExaggeratedWired News (blog) - Ryan Singel
Pew: More Old People Using Facebook, Teens Blogging Less Switched - Amar Toor
Millennial Generation's Web Dominance On The Decline, Pew Study Says The Huffington Post - Amy Lee
Older web users catching up: Pew - Matt Kwong
Internet is No Longer a Domain for the Young

Elderly people rapidly adapting to online social networks
TechRadar UK - Adam Hartley
Old catching up to young on US Internet: studyAFP

Of 26 hits for the Pew study on Google News at around 4:15 PM EST the headlines were distributed as follows:

17 old catching up with young 
2   blogging in decline
3   Twitter use (general headlines related to Twitter, no connected theme)
1   75% of Americans look for news online
1   search is the number 2 online activity
1   open channel for cancer education
1   Reddit Delicious StumbleUpon Mixx LinkedIn Google Buzz Yahoo Buzz

The "blogging in decline" meme seemed to be spreading on subsequent searches. That's also the trend that got picked up by in their "What's Hot in Social Media This Week" article.

The old vs. young themed articles made for interesting reading about who does what online. One thing that struck me was that the young were more likely to read blogs but less likely to blog themselves. I wonder what blogs they read?

Other online differences among the generations seemed somewhat more related to the kinds of things people do when they're young anyway. I'm not surprised that younger people are more likely to play games online and participate in virtual worlds. I'll bet if they did a survey of paintball or laser tag or even soccer playing, they'd find a decline in participation with age.

One thing I wish Pew had surveyed was how people use the Internet on the job and how personal vs. work-related use of social media breaks out. How many people use Facebook and Twitter as part of their jobs as opposed to for personal connection? How many people use wikis in their jobs? I'd also like to know what kind of jobs the Millennials are in vs. the jobs the older cohorts are in. And wouldn't you just love a job where you could spend your day using social networking sites, instant messaging, using online classifieds, listening to music, playing online games, reading blogs, and participating in virtual worlds?

The Pew study raises lots of interesting questions. There's much more to be learned about how Americans are using the Internet.

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