New research has found that seven in ten Australians are unwilling to pay for news and information obtained from the internet.
The latest instalment of Australia’s contribution to the World Internet Project finds that Australians are still flocking to cyberspace, with 80 per cent having used it in a recent 3-month period – up from 73 per cent in 2007.
There has also been a surge in people using the internet to make phone calls in the past two years, says Professor Julian Thomas of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research, who directs Digital Futures, the Australian component of the World Internet Project (WIP). Nearly one in three people now use online telephony and those born overseas are even more likely to be doing so.
“The overwhelming majority of Australians are internet users. When we talked to them in 2009, four in five Australians had used the internet in the past three months, up from 73% in 2007. Internationally this is a high level of internet use. Also the vast majority of home internet connections are now broadband (94%),” he says.
“But there is still a digital divide. Around 14 per cent of Australians over 18 have never used the internet and many of them say they are not interested, while 6 per cent are ex-users, often because they currently either don’t have a computer or a connection.”
The latest study includes comparative data from a number of other countries showing the internet is a maturing technology in Australia. A third of users have now been online for ten years or more, while a further half have been using it for at least five years.
Three quarters of users now rate the internet as important or very important as an information source – compared with 40 per cent who say the same of TV or newspapers. This is a global phenomenon with the internet now the most important source of information in all but one of the comparison countries included in the report. More than two thirds say they would go to the internet first if a large local or international story was breaking.
But there is a strong view that internet content should continue to be free. 71 per cent say they are not prepared to pay for news, while only 7 per cent are willing to part with the price of a daily newspaper ($1.50) for their online news. Young Australians are even less likely to pay, with more than three quarters of those aged 24 and under saying they are not prepared to pay up.
On the issue of trustworthiness, 84 per cent of users say they regard at least half of the information on the internet as trustworthy. Nearly half of the surveyed users thought that at least most of the information in newspapers was reliable (47.8%), compared with 40.9% for the internet and 37.5% for television.
Australians are also strongly positive that the internet has improved their social lives. 44 per cent say it has increased contact with people with shared hobbies or recreational activities, while more than two thirds say it has improved contact with their families and friends. In terms of the latter Australians were the most positive amongst the comparison countries. They add that using the internet has had little or no effect on face-to-face contact in the family.
There are clear signs that Australians are turning to the internet for entertainment in growing numbers with the internet beginning to rival TV and now significantly more important for users than newspapers, magazines or radio. 56 per cent listen to, or download, music from the internet. There has also been a sharp rise – – from 19 to 30 per cent – in the number of people downloading movies TV shows and video clips weekly with much higher rates amongst younger Australians.
There has been an increase in Australians seeking sexual content from the internet, up from 22 per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent in 2009. One in ten say they do so at least once a week.
More than half of internet users (ie over 40% of all Australians) now use the web to find restaurants and food recipes and to visit sites dedicated to their favourite artist. Most still prefer to buy their music from a shop, with only one in five buying online.
CCI’s Digital Futures project is the Australian branch of The World Internet Project (WIP) a major, international, collaborative project looking at the social, political and economic impact of the Internet and other new technologies. Conceived as the study of the Internet that should have been conducted of television in its early days, WIP researchers consider that the Internet’s influence will ultimately be far greater than that of television.
The WIP consists of universities and research institutes around the world, who conduct detailed research, produce publications and hold annual conferences looking at the impact of the new technologies on society.
The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business.