SYDNEY: Media usage patterns are continuing to change in Australia, with growing numbers of people now consuming content from different sources at the same time.

According to Nielsen, the research firm, improved connection speeds drove an increase in Australian internet use last year, with the average rising from 16.1 hours a week in 2008 to 17.6 hours in 2009.

Younger people were more likely to go online for longer periods, with the typical 16–29-year-old utilising the internet for 22 hours a week, falling to 15.5 hours a week for the over-55s.

By gender, men generally accessed the web for 19.2 hours in a given seven day period, a total that stood at 16.1 hours for women.

The research firm's Internet & Technology report also revealed that 49% of Australians "multi-task" by going online and watching TV simultaneously, with 39% listening to the radio while surfing the net.

Overall, this general convergence trend means that the rise of online use has not adversely impacted other forms of media, Nielsen said in its analysis accompanying the data.

Indeed, television viewing time grew last year, up to 13.4 hours in 2009 from 12.9 hours in 2008, with a similar development observable for radio, where weekly figures rose from 8.8 hours to 9.3 hours.

The proportion of Australian netizens that regarded the web as being their favourite tool with which to communicate with their family and friends also climbed from 33% to 44% over the same period.

Just 31% afforded the same status to their mobile phone, a decline of 7% compared with the previous year.

Elsewhere, online cemented its status as users' preferred information source, on 53%, ahead of TV, in second on 18%.

However, TV still beat out the web as the main source of news (38% vs 30%), and as the primary provider of entertainment (47% vs 20%).

Matt Bruce, managing director, online operations at Nielsen, said "changes to the Australian media landscape in recent years such as the introduction of Freeview TV, digital radio and PVR/DVRs mean consumers have more options and flexibility in their media choices than ever before."

"This is reflected in the growth of hours spent across a range of media and the popularity of media multi-tasking."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff