How do UK adults consume media? On what devices? And in what frequency?

The Ofcom Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report, published last week, is always an interesting read, showing how habits have changed over the years.

I've picked my highlights for marketers from the survey of 1,841 adults.

51% of searchers can't spot a paid listing

One of the most notable findings from the report was picked up by a variety of news outlets, including the FT.

Half of search engine users (51%) were unable to correctly identify adverts or sponsored links in search engine results.

The overall understanding of organic search results was mixed, with some respondents trusting Google implicitly.

  • 18% of searchers think that if a website has been listed it must be accurate and unbiased.
  • 12% say they have not thought about it.
  • 8% say they do not know.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was respondents from the 25-34 age group that were most likely to give an incorrect response to this question.

Website and app usage has become less diverse

One in five (21%) internet users say they used lots of websites or apps that they haven’t used before in 2015. This was down four percentage points since 2014.

Most weeks, internet users are now more likely (than 2014) to only use websites or apps that they have used before (42% in 2015, 31% in 2014).

If apps like Facebook are pushing out other sources and becoming 'intermediaries', as the report puts it, discoverability mechanisms become more important.

app usage

There's no stopping video

78% of users have ever watched a short video clip online, up from 73% in 2014.

There's a big increase in those watching weekly, from 39% in 2014 to 48% in 2015.

This revolution is mobile, too, with video clips most commonly watched on a smartphone, particularly among younger adults. 


The majority favour laptop/PC for ecommerce

The propotion of internet users shopping online on a weekly basis is up from 25% in 2013 and 2014 to 30% in 2015.

However, ecommerce lags behind other activities when it comes to mobile.

37% of internet users preferred online shopping via a laptop and 18% on PC (55% combined), with less a quarter (24%) preferring a smartphone.

This, despite many retailers seeing more mobile traffic, shows users perhaps don't like the UX of converting on smartphone.

device for ecommerce

Proportion of internet users on PC/laptop down to 2010 levels

The chart below illustrates the shift from 'computers' to smartphone and tablet for accessing the internet.

In 2015, 71% had used a computer to get online, this was down from 81% in 2014 (and was only just above the 69% in 2010).

When Ofcom looked further into this question, there showed a considerable rise (from 6% in 2014 to 16% in 2015) in the proportion of adults who only use smartphones or tablets to go online.

These mobile-only users were more likely to be young or in DE households (semi-skilled & unskilled manual occupations, unemployed and lowest grade occupations).

The report highlights implications for usability, as smartphones may hamper or preclude certain activities e.g. word processing.

devices used to go online

Is media diversification a polarising force?

Ending on a pertinent note, I'll quote the report.

There is increasing polarity between different age groups in terms of communications activity.

Whereas 25 years ago, all age groups shared just two common means of communication – landlines and letters – the landscape is now considerably more varied, and there is a risk that common means of communication that cut across demographics are becoming increasingly rare, with implications for social connectivity and information-sharing.

For more stats, see Econsultancy's Internet Statistics Compendium.

Ben Davis

Published 26 April, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)


yaacov goldstein, Account Manager at Five Blocks

Some really interesting output from the report and a great write up. Thanks Ben.

However I think the '51% of searchers can't spot a paid listing' needs some more clarification. Having looked at the actual report it isn't clear where this actual stat comes from. 52% of 'newer users' and 62% of 'established users' identified that the listings were ads. Newer users (people who only started using the internet in the lats 5 years) were less than 15% of respondents so the true average is probably around 60%.

The fact that some of those also said they were the most relevant results doesn't alter the fact that they identified the results were paid for.

So the true number is about 40% of people can't spot an ad. Still a staggering number of people but not as staggering as Ofcom would have you believe.

about 2 years ago

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