Annenberg Digital Future Project 2007 Documents Major Shift in Online/Offline Connections

by Marianne Richmond on December 3, 2006

The University of Southern California-Annenberg Digital Future Project recently released their 2007 findings and declared a "major shift in social communications and personal connections on the Internet." (Full report available for purchase at http://store.digitalcenter.org) This is a longitudinal academic study; explanation of research methods and sample are provided.

Annenberg offers an online communities track as part of their master program in communication, Charles Annenberg Weingarten Program on Online Communities (APOC). On their website they make the statement:

   

       

"Online communities are the future of our economic, political, and social lives. USC Annenberg’s pioneering track in online communities is the first in the world to recognize that the development and leadership of online communities is critical to the future success of a wide array of industries, including communications, marketing, political campaigning, advocacy, social networking, professional networking, intellectual property, entertainment law and management, nonprofit management, social support and illness support, and healthcare, to name just a few."

   

I think I would have to agree. The Annenberg study found 75% of Americans online. This is supported by the Pew Internet Findings of 73%. The Annenberg study found that more women than men were online; a year ago the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that men were still slightly ahead and that "men liked the Internet for the experiences it offers while women like it for the connections if promotes."  The hand that rocks the cradle and has a right brain rules the world.

Annenberg found that 43% of Internet users who belong to online communities feel "as strongly about’ their virtual communities as they do their "real word" communities. Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future says, "More than a decade after the portals of the World Wide Web opened to the public, we are now witnessing the true emergence of the Internet as the powerful personal and social phenomenon we knew it would become."

Other interesting data regarding online/offline connections and interactions:

       

  • 20.3% of online community members report that they take actions off line at least once a year that is related to their online community.
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  • 64.9 % of online community members who are involved in social causes on the Internet say that these causes were new to them before they began participating in the Internet.
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  • Over half of online community members log in once a day and 70.4 % say they sometimes or always interact with other members while logged on.
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  • Internet users report having met an average of 4.65 friends on line whom they have never met in person; they report they actually meet 1.6 online friends in person.
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  • 42.8% of Internet users say that going online has increased the number of people they regularly stay in contact with; this number has decreased slightly from the 46.6% who said the same thing in 2002.
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  • The number of Internet users who say they are communicating more with friends and family is decreasing 37.7% vs 45.5% in 2002; interestingly though all users reported that the time they spend face to face with close friends and family has not been effected.

Message to politicians, universities, advocates of social causes, social marketers, and community builders, advertisers and product marketers: the future is now,  fish where the fish are, the connections are real.

Beth Kantor has some great resources in her Thanksgiving post….and her blog in general always has useful information and insightful commentary: Flickr, tags, and her awesome widget campaign, to name a few.

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