ARD/ZDF Online Survey 2011 More Pensioners Online, Internet Television Increasingly Popular

More than 34.5 per cent of people over 60 go online regularly.
More than 34.5 per cent of people over 60 go online regularly. | Photo (detail): Jacob Wackerhausen © iStockphoto

More pensioners are online, public-service media libraries are being used more, and television on demand, with programmes available whenever you want to watch them, is becoming increasingly popular. These are the central findings of the latest ARD/ZDF online survey.

What was once difficult to imagine is now part of the everyday life of many people: booking trips, performing bank transactions, buying books and ordering goods without reaching for the phone or setting a foot outside your front door. The rapid development and spread of the Internet over the last decade has made all that possible. 73.3 per cent of the German population, which means 51.7 million people, are now online. This new record is mainly due to pensioners discovering the world of the Internet.

More and more silver surfers

A representative ARD/ZDF online survey has been carried out each year since 1997. According to the latest survey, the number of online silver surfers is on the rise. More than 34.5 per cent (some seven million people) of people over 60 go online regularly, an increase of 23 per cent on 2010. Even the over 70 age group have arrived in the digital world. Nearly 30 per cent of men but just 9 per cent of women in this age group use the Internet. A surprising fact that may be indicative of future trends is that nearly one in ten Internet users over the age of 70 uses a social network.

Everyone in the 14 to 19 age group is online, but that is also true of nearly all 20 to 39 year olds, at 98.2 per cent. With its some 52 million users, Germany is the Internet market with the largest number of users in Europe, Seen as a percentage of the population, however, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands head the tables. Nine out of ten people there have Internet access.

Email is the main reason for using the Internet

The average time spent online by all users in Germany is 137 minutes. Women invest less time in online activities, spending around two hours online every day, whereas the male population clocks up 150 minutes. The main purpose of using the Internet is to obtain information and to communicate. Current domestic and foreign news is particularly in demand, but according to the survey, that does not mean that other media providing the latest information, such as television and radio, are used less. There has been a shift at the expense of the printed media, however, as the world-wide web is a speedier source of information.

The main reason for using the Internet continues to be to send and receive emails. A slight decline of email in favour of social networks was evident only among the younger generation, with 71 per cent of 14 to 29-year olds regularly and increasingly participating in online communities.

Internet television gaining ground

Ten years ago, online television seemed almost Utopian. According to the study, the proportion of people watching television live online is currently already 21 per cent. Among 14 to 19 year olds, the figure is as high as 30 per cent. The use of audio-visual media, such as videos, video podcasts or online television content in the form of live and delayed streaming, is rising steadily. More than half of the people polled said they had watched television online before. The online public communications site YouTube is the most frequently-used source of moving images. The public-service media libraries are in second place, having seen significant growth in 2011.

Watching habits are changing and television on demand will play an even bigger role in the future. Currently, most people still adapt their everyday life to the media and not the other way around, but there are signs that the trend is being reversed, especially among young users.

Said Dr Helmut Reitze, Chairman of Hessische Rundfunk and Vice Chairman of the ARD/ZDF Media Commission: “Today, people see, hear and read whatever they like, whenever they like and wherever they like.” That is something that Heike J., a 53-year-old archivist from Frankfurt am Main, can only confirm: “I watch television via the Internet because I like a different programme to the rest of the family, and that makes me independent.” She bought a computer with a 22-inch monitor on which she can watch television. “You can even interrupt linear television – that’s great,” she adds. Her 22-year-old son Ole often browses the media libraries for documentation from abroad. “It is fantastic to have access to videos on demand,” he says. He downloads his emails using his mobile, like most of his contemporaries. “The web does not do away with television, but it is becoming an important supplementary medium for television channels,” sums up Markus Schächter, ZDF Chairman and Chairman of the ARD/ZDF Media Commission.

Most people still use traditional linear television. Sitting comfortably in front of the screen is relaxing, and watching programmes that are broadcast at set times structures the day. However, that will change as soon as technologically advanced hybrid monitors where television and the Internet are indistinguishable enter peoples’ living rooms.