South Africa turns to online media


More and more South Africans are using the Internet to gather news and do research, but it appears they are still stealing time to do so at work, although this could change as telecommunications prices fall.

Yesterday, the Online Publishers' Association (OPA) released the results of the Nielsen Online annual survey of how the country's Internet use fared during 2008.

It shows the number of unique browsers rose by 25%, to 4.7 million, and that page impressions rose by the same order of magnitude to 232 million. The number of sessions surged by 31%, to 28.1 million, and the time spent on the Internet climbed by 45%, to 3.8 million hours. However, the average time per session rose by a more modest 9%, to eight minutes and five seconds per session.

“This tells me that more and more South Africans are using the Internet, but that they are largely doing it from the office by stealing a bit of time here and there,” says OPA chairman Adrian Hewlett

Hewlett says that as the cost of connectivity is set to fall with the opening of new international connections and more competition in the telecommunications industry, consumers will spend more time at home using the Internet. “What a lot of people don't realise is that it is the amount of research an Internet user does before making a purchase and that is what eventually leads to the transactions,” he says.

The survey shows men are inclined to use the Internet more, with their representation rising to 58% of the audience, from 55% in 2007, and that older people, those over 50 years of age, are also making more use of the Internet. Fifty-six percent of the audience use English as their language of choice.

Helwett says that number may be slightly skewed by the fact that the survey is done in English and there are indications that many people, for whom English is not their first language, are increasingly using the Internet.

Nielsen Online researcher Andrew Felbert says: “Changes in audience share over time tend to be subtle; however, they are important in indicating future trends in how the audience will look. SA's online population has become more male and English-language centric over the last year, as well as becoming slightly older.”

Felbert says that, while the ageing element is natural, as a media becomes more mainstream, it is important that the online industry looks at becoming more encompassing and doesn't ignore women and non-English-speakers – areas crucial for major growth of the medium.

Nielsen Online says newspaper-related sites dominated the fastest growing brands. Avusa's Sunday World (187%) and the Daily Dispatch (181%) newspapers were far and away the two fastest growing online brands, by unique browsers, during 2008.

Moneyweb Holdings and Media24 both had two properties in the top 10 fastest growers.