Thursday, February 5

Trending Generations: Pew Research Center

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, an independent public opinion survey research project that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues, posted the results of its Generations Online in 2009 last week. The comparative study evaluates data between 2005 and 2008.

In keeping pace with Harris Interactive's poll in 2007 and the Universal McCann study in 2008, Internet users range from the very young to the young at heart. Right on. The Internet is for everybody.

The Internet Has Become Multigenerational

• 24 percent of adult Internet users are ages 55+ (Boomers, S.G. and G.I. Gen)
• 22 percent of adult Internet users are ages 45-54 (Younger Boomers)
• 23 percent of adult Internet users are ages 33-44 (Gen X)
• 30 percent of adult Internet users are ages 18-32 (Gen Y)

The largest increase among a singular age demographic were Internet users ages 70-75. While only 26 percent of this group participated online in 2005, 45 percent participated in 2008. Participation among ages 75+ also increased from 17 to 27 percent. Ages 60-64 increased from 55 percent to 62 percent.

Other Key Findings Online From 2005 to 2008

• Ages 18-32 are more likely to use social networks, seek entertainment, read blogs, and create content
• Ages 33-64 are more likely shop online, perform tasks (banking), visit government sites, and research products
• Ages 65+ are most likely to research products, obtain health information, visit government sites, and use e-mail

A quick evaluation of the general differences reveals that younger Internet users are increasingly active and much more likely to engage content creators and become content creators. In fact, it is interesting to note that despite calls by Wired that blogs were dead, Internet users ages 12-38 are more likely to create and read blogs than ever before.

But why does any of that matter? So what?

After scanning several dozen blogs, it seems few people drew conclusions beyond the Pew data. But then I remembered a post penned in December called Generation "Why". As Valeria Maltoni pointed out then, the context is changing. And with it, so are the conversations.

Marketers may even be making a mistake. While most are attempting to become increasingly targeted, Internet demographics are becoming increasing diverse. And that might mean marketers will have to learn how to balance targeted content with inclusive conversations that touch multiple publics. How do you do that? It begins with listening.


Barry on 2/5/09, 12:42 PM said...

It has been fun challenging my 72 year old mother to become more and more involved with the internet. She orders products, reads my blog, banks, pays bills and download mp3's of sermons from her church.

I think the biggest barrier to tear down in new computer users young and old is the anxiety that builds from fearing we may do something wrong. I tell my mother "Don't worry about a thing. We are not going to do everything perfectly and neither will the technology."

Rich on 2/5/09, 12:54 PM said...


That is an excellent observation. And, with all the stuff she does online, it seems to me she is an amazingly active participant.

In contrast, I have a grandmother who gave up on the answering machine. And since she is active elsewhere, there's always a bit of luck involved in reaching her on the phone.

I agree with you. The barrier for many is a fear of the unknown.

I can appreciate why some companies are still concerned about someone speaking for them in real time, but individuals don't have too much to worry about. I just spoke to someone today about this and suggested their first step might be to leave a comment on a blog.

All my best,


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