NUREMBERG: Social networking still falls behind email, search and reading the latest news when it comes to the main reasons European consumers use the web, a study has found.

GfK conducted a survey of 16,800 people over the age of 15 years old in a total of 16 nations in the region, as well as the US, on behalf of the Wall Street Journal.

The overall aim of the poll was to identify the attitudes and behaviors of adults in these countries with regard to the internet.

Sending email was described as the “preferred” online activity among around half of the panel, and was most popular in Germany, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

Tracking down information via portals like Google was in second place on this measure, followed by consuming news, which posted an average of 39% across the markets assessed.

Logging on to services like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn was mentioned by just one in four of the sample, although there were some differences between countries.

Respondents in Greece, Turkey and the UK were found to be most in favour of these Web 2.0 offerings, and thus displayed “above-average” interest in this channel.

However, only 7% of Germans, Bulgarians and Romanians defined social networking as being “among the most important online activities.”

In all areas except the Netherlands, women used this type of platform more often than men, while 63% of females also used email, compared with 47% of males.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, contributors spending three hours or more surfing the web each day accessed social networks, played games and downloaded music more frequently than the norm.

By contrast, “light users” exhibited a slight preference towards search engines and reference tools.

More broadly, 69% of Central and Eastern European netizens rated staying up-to-date with the latest news as their primary reason for going on the internet.

This figure fell to 48% when it came to email, and to 45% for utilising search properties like Yahoo and Bing.

When asked for their opinions about the idea of paying for online content, 80% of participants said they wanted to be able to view material for free.

A further 46% agreed they would “put up with advertising” if it served as a substitute to subscriptions and fees.

Just 13% expressed a willingness to meet such charges if they were introduced, while 8% would opt for premium services if they contained no ads.

Around a fifth of Swedish, Dutch and British contributors stated they “would not mind” incurring costs of this nature, a view shared by 17% of Americans.

Data sourced from GfK; additional content by Warc staff