October 10, 2010 10:02 pm

Chinese and Saudis lead way in internet use

People in China and the Middle East are the busiest and most enthusiastic internet users, a study of the world’s online habits has revealed.

The Chinese are also among the most receptive to brands and advertisers communicating with them on social networking sites, underlining the substantial and still largely untapped opportunity for online marketers in Asia.

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The survey shows how emerging markets are overtaking western Europe and North America in social networking and reveal sharp regional differences in patterns of behaviour.

TNS, the market researcher owned by WPP, interviewed almost 50,000 people in 46 countries for its “Digital Life” study.

TNS ranked the online populations it sees as the most highly engaged in the internet through the time spent using it and people’s attitudes to the technology.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China topped the list, with about 55 per cent “highly engaged”.

Turkey, the third-largest nation represented on Facebook, was the only European country to appear in the TNS top 10. Advertising agencies have seen rapid growth in marketing expenditure by clients in China and Brazil, as well as in digital channels.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest marketing and communications group by revenues, said: “The growth in our industry has, is and will be driven by China and the internet, and this report both demonstrates it and the links between the two.”

People spend more time social networking than they do on e-mail in Latin America, the Middle East and China, with mobile access driving internet uptake. People in these areas of the world are more likely to post blogs, photos or videos online, and value internet access more highly than those in more developed markets.

By contrast, about 42 per cent of internet users in the US and UK were deemed by TNS to be highly engaged by the web.

People in markets where broadband access has been available for longer still largely prefer e-mail and PCs over mobile and social media.

TNS found that 61 per cent of people with internet access used it daily. Fifty-four per cent watched television every day, 36 per cent listened to the radio and 32 per cent read newspapers.

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