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Social sites losing popularity with UK's young

Social networking websites have lost some of their “cool” factor with younger users and are on their way to becoming the preserve of the middle-aged, according to figures published by Ofcom.

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The proportion of British 15- to 24-year-olds with a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace fell for the first time last year from 55 per cent to 50 per cent, according to the communications regulator.

Older internet users are still flocking to the sites, however. The proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds claiming to have a social networking profile grew by 6 percentage points to 46 per cent, and among 35- to 54-year-olds by 8 percentage points to 35 per cent.

The findings are likely to attract the attention of media financiers, whose assumptions of media usage were shattered three weeks ago when the 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern Matthew Robson claimed that teenagers did not use the much hyped microblogging service Twitter.

Other research into social networking sites shows their audiences are still growing, albeit not at the historic levels seen in 2006 and 2007. According to Comscore, the online research company, 6.8m people aged between 15 and 24 visited social networking sites in June, up 13 per cent year-on-year and roughly in line with increased usage of the internet overall by this age group.

However, the audience figures for individual social networking sites from Nielsen Online, another online research company, support the picture that social networking is an ageing medium.

Bebo, a social networking site with a typically younger user profile, saw its UK audience shrink 17 per cent between May 2008 and June 2009, according to figures by Nielsen Online. In the same period, the audience for LinkedIn, a site primarily used for business networking, grew by 63 per cent. Twitter’s user base has grown by 1,679 per cent in the same period, and now reaches 2.6m users in the UK.

AOL spent $850m (£499m) last year buying Bebo, while News Corp bought MySpace for $580m in 2005, both hoping to connect with younger audiences. However, this ephemeral demographic may be moving on before media owners have properly learnt how to make money from their sites.

“If this trend is true, it would raise questions about the valuation of social networks. It would confirm that on the internet you have to be very agile. One year it is all about search- engine advertising, the next it is about social networking, and something else after that,” said Adam Daum, analyst at Gartner, the IT research group.

“There has been a question for a long time of whether user-generated content is just a fad or whether people will continue using it but just keep migrating to different sites as new, cooler ones come up.”

Mr Daum suggested that online gaming, which allows people to play remotely with their friends, send messages and chat, may be one of the new areas attracting younger internet users.

 

 

[Estimated timeframe:Q3 2009-onward]

All data sources are attributed with links to the original insight. The insight is then summarised and, where appropriate, enhanced with additional information.

Source: FT.com
MTT insight URL: http://marketingtrendtracker.com/article.aspx?id=4624



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