Columnists

Wayne MacPhail
Canadian Internet usage quiz -- surprise answers inside!

| February 25, 2009
This weekend I attended two fascinating, statistics rich talks at Podcamp Toronto. So, now it's time for a pop quiz kids.

About 24 million of Canada's 33 million citizens are online. What percentage of them stream videos each month? Bonus question: What percentage visit a social network?

You guessed low. Way low.

According to fresh data presented at Podcamp Toronto by Comscore Inc.'s Catherine Moelker, the answer in both cases is 85 per cent. And, those of us who watch video, watch a lot. On average we catch 120 videos a month per person. And, on average the 85 per cent of online Canadians who visit a social network spent six hours per month each. Ninety-six per cent of online Canadians get there via high speed access (higher than the 85 per cent in the U.S.).

Want more? Canadians lead the world in the number of pages viewed per visitor and the number of minutes spent on those pages. In other words, Canadians are the most engaged online audience on the planet. And, more Canadians, by percentage of population, are online than any other country. The Internet has the highest penetration in Canada of any G7 country. Seventy two per cent of all of us use it on a monthly basis.

So, we are the most highly penetrated country, view the most content and spend the most time.

That's a trend that's been growing, not just among young folks, but right across the age spectrum. According to 2007 NADBank data, time spent by Canadians on the Internet (as a percentage of time spent with all media types) has at least doubled in every age group, including 55+ since 2001. The one bright indicator for television? About 46 per cent of Canadians browse the Web and watch TV at the same time at least once a day. That said, at about 8 p.m., the Web's reach exceeds prime time television's in Canadian households.

Next question. Which region of Canada has the highest degree of Internet penetration?

You'll be wrong again.

The answer is Atlantic Canada, with 80 per cent. B.C. comes in second at 78 per cent. Ontario is second to last at 70 per cent. But, to Ontario's credit, it has the highest number of unique visitors in Canada and they spend the most time of any region digesting the most info online.

The fastest growing online categories for Canadians? Again, according to Comscore, social networks, especially those for women, photo sharing and any kind of social media. Meanwhile, genealogy, online trading and lotto info is falling out of favour.

Social networking is huge in Canada, right across the demographic spectrum. Ninety per cent of online users (about 19 million) are on social networks. On average, we spend 380 minutes per month there. And, we're split evenly, male/female. Even in the 55+ segment, about 75 per cent of us use social networks.

So, what do all these numbers mean?

It means if you're a Canadian and you don't watch online videos and don't engage in a social network, you're in the minority, the significant minority. Look at those numbers again. Age doesn't matter, gender doesn't matter, geography matters a little, but not the way you imagine.

If you're a company, NGO, non-profit or cause and you're not talking to your Canadian audience online, you're not talking to them where they live.

I also sat in on a Podcamp Toronto talk by Agent Wildfire's Sean Moffitt. Agent Wildfire focuses on word-of-mouth advertising, and social media in Canada is a big part of that.

Six months ago the company did a survey, called the Buzz Report. They polled about 300 Canadian marketing leaders (clients and agencies). Eighty per cent believe social media is currently building value for their organizations. Ninety-nine per cent plan on spending more time, resources and money on social media. Ninety one per cent are already using blog and social network marketing. A third have already created social media applications.

So, again, if you're a company, NGO, non-profit or cause and you're not using social media to talk to a Canadian audience, you're playing catch up as the early adopters build their social capital and hone their chops.

It's comfortable and convenient for folks who are afraid of the Web and social media to assume that most Canadians are like them, not really into video, social networking or engaging in virtual communities. Comfortable, but not accurate.

Canadians are world leaders in online engagement. Look at the numbers, not your assumptions and act accordingly.