The coronavirus pandemic has sent internet use rocketing in the UK, a new report from Ofcom says – and some observers think it could grow further in the weeks ahead.

The regulator’s annual Online Nation survey finds that during the country’s lockdown the average adult spent a daily average of four hours and two minutes online, around 25% of their waking day. This compares with the just under three-and-a-half hours spent online in September last year.

This finding indicates people now spend more time online than either watching TV or listening to radio, which, Ofcom says, indicates the pandemic accelerated the migration away from traditional media that was already under way.

More turn to video services 

The report finds that, as people looked for new ways to communicate, and stay informed and entertained during the lockdown, video-sharing and video-calling services soared in popularity.

TikTok, the short-form video-sharing platform, attracted 12.9 million UK adults in April, up from 5.4 million in January; and Twitch, the live-streaming platform for gamers, saw visitors go from 2.3 million to 4.2 million adults.

The number of people making video calls doubled during lockdown. Houseparty, the app that combines group video calls with games and quizzes, saw numbers rise from 175,000 in January to four million in April. The biggest increase, however, came at Zoom, the video meeting platform: the number of users went from 659,000 to 13 million over the same period – almost 2,000% growth.

Platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, were hugely popular. The report reveals that 90% of adults, and almost 100% of older children aged eight to 15, with access to the internet, used at least one of these platforms in the last year, with many visiting several times a day. A third (32%) of online adults now spend more time looking at video-sharing content than broadcast TV, Ofcom says.

But look below the headline figures

Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, suggests, however, that a straight comparison between video-sharing services and broadcast TV is somewhat misleading as lots of TV is online video – broadcaster on-demand services, like ITV Hub and iPlayer – and also social media via channels such as YouTube. And 21% of 16-34 broadcaster TV viewing is now on-demand (i.e. online video).

Brits are not only watching, though. Two in five adults (40%) and 59% of older children who use video-sharing platforms now create and upload their own videos. Vlogging is also, for many, a money-maker, with 17% of adults who create and share videos receiving money or gifts in return. And a growing number of children see becoming a “YouTuber” as a possible career.

Easing lockdown won’t change the trend

Commenting on the report’s findings, Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research, said: “Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy. Coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.”

Karl Knights, Vice President in EMEA for marketing technology company 4C believes the changes may even intensify. “I wouldn’t be surprised if time spent online remains at similar levels, or actually grows further in the coming weeks/months,” he said.

“With the Premier League back on and the absence of stadiums, pubs, or even other people’s homes to enjoy games together, fans will turn to their phones or tablets to recreate the shared experience,” he suggested.

Sourced from Ofcom