LONDON: Consumers around the world are engaging in an increasingly diverse range of digital activities, but media owners still face a challenge to monetise their online operations, a study has suggested.

Ofcom, the communications regulator, polled 9,152 web users in nine countries, and found smartphone uptake hit 64% in Spain, with the UK on 58%. Japan, however, logged just 30%, ahead of the US on 44%.

Turning to tablets, Spain and Australia tied in first place on 24%, followed by Italy on 23%. The US registered 20% here, dropping to 19% for the UK, versus 15% in France and 10% in Germany.

Laptops were used most frequently to go online in the UK, Italy and Japan, with desktops assuming pole position in six of the other featured markets.

Fully 43% of Spanish participants owning connected handheld devices surfed the net from a smartphone, beating the UK on 36%, Italy on 33% and Germany on 30%. Some 15% of people in Italy and the US did so via tablets, the highest such scores.

However, when it came to paying for content on the web, only 8% of respondents regularly met a charge to access material, whereas 53% never did.

With regard to total ecommerce purchases, shoppers in the UK spent £1,083 per year on the internet, in front of Australia on £842 and Sweden on £747.

Some 23.1% of UK smartphone users also visited retail websites on the move, the highest score among Europe's five biggest markets. Germany took second place in this area on 22.6%.

"We have a long history of catalogue shopping in the UK, and as many daily activities are increasingly carried out online, the internet has become the new destination for many shoppers," said James Thickett, Ofcom's director of research.

When discussing social networking, a 75% majority of consumers in Spain accessed such platforms at home, compared with 69% in Australia and 66% in the US and Australia.

An additional 43% of the mobile phone audience in Spain accessed social networking from these devices, reaching 40% in the US, UK and Australia. Germany yielded a more modest 26%, and France recorded 27%.

Consumers in the US watch the most television overall, viewing an average of 293 minutes worth of content on a daily basis, ahead of Italy on 253 minutes and the UK on 243 minutes.

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff