The Pew Internet & American Life Project just released the findings of a new survey of 4,001 U.S. adults that segments Americans into a range of groups based on usage of and attitudes toward the Internet and mobile phones. The report is provocative (even surprising) but long, so I’m just going to summarize it at the very highest level. (You can get a copy of the report here (PDF file).
Out of the survey findings, Pew developed an elaborate classification scheme based on ten types that fit into three broad categories:
- Elite users (31 percent)
- Middle of the road users (20 percent)
- Those with few “tech assets” and limited use of technology (a whopping 49 percent)
Below are the verbatim descriptions of the various sub-segments, according to Pew:
Omnivores (8%): They have the most information gadgets and services, which they use voraciously to participate in cyberspace, express themselves online, and do a range of Web 2.0 activities. Most in this group are men in their mid- to late twenties.
Connectors (7%): Between featured-packed cell phones and frequent online use, they connect to people and manage digital content using ICTs (information and communications technology) – with high levels of satisfaction about how ICTs let them work with community groups and pursue hobbies. Lackluster Veterans (8%): They are frequent users of the internet and less avid about cell phones. They are not thrilled with ICT-enabled connectivity and don’t see them as tools for additional productivity. They were among the internet’s early adopters.
Productivity Enhancers (8%): They have strongly positive views about how technology lets them keep up with others, do their jobs, and learn new things. They are frequent and happy ICT users whose main focus is personal and professional communication.
Mobile Centrics (10%): They fully embrace the functionality of their cell phones. They use the internet, but not often, and like how ICTs connect them to others. 37% have high-speed internet connections at home. The group contains a large share of African Americans.
Connected but Hassled (10%): They have invested in a lot of technology (80% have broadband at home), but they find the connectivity intrusive and information something of a burden.
Low Tech and Non Users
Inexperienced Experimenters (8%): They occasionally take advantage of interactivity, but if they had more experience and connectivity, they might do more with ICTs. They are late adopters of the internet. Few have high-speed connections at home.
Light but Satisfied (15%): They have some technology, but it does not play a central role in their daily lives. They are satisfied with what ICTs do for them. They like how information technology makes them more available to others and helps them learn new things.
Indifferents (11%): Despite having either cell phones or online access, these users use ICTs only intermittently and find connectivity annoying. Few would miss a beat if they had to give these things up.
Off the Network (15%): Those with neither cell phones nor internet connectivity tend to be older adults. A few of them have computers or digital cameras, but they are content with old media.
There’s lots of great segmentation data in the report along various lines (age, income, general, technology ownership, broadband penetration, etc.). But what’s perhaps most interesting is to look at the 41 percent for whom technology has little or no value (8 percent of the “low tech” group is interested but inexperienced). While technology is pervasive in their lives, they go online (often daily, mostly from work) and use mobile phones, they are not very engaged and are only superficial users.
As anecdotal evidence and previous research suggest, these segments tend to be older, less educated, have lower incomes. They prefer traditional media, especially TV. But those are broad generalizations and the report has some surprising findings demographically. For example, “light but satisfied” users are somewhat older than the lower tech “indifferents.”
There are some fairly broad and clear implications for advertisers flowing from the survey findings. Marketers will need to adjust their mix of media increasingly, depending on what audiences they’re trying to reach. Traditional media aren’t dead, nor is the Internet an all-purpose substitute for “old media.” For example, to reach the” low tech” segments traditional media will be much more effective, while younger and especially male users need to be pursued aggressively online or in a mobile environment.
Yet those online and deeply engaged in “Web 2.0″ activities represent a distinct minority of the population. Interestingly, there was a fairly high degree of ambivalence about technology reflected in the data, even among “middle of the road” users (i.e., “Connected but Hassled”).
While one could expect the distribution of users in each segment to be different in, say, five years and maybe completely different in 10 years, this report reveals that breezy attitudes about users and their behavior should be discarded in favor of more nuanced views about an evolving and increasingly complex media marketplace.