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What Do People Do Online?
Implications For the Future of Media
Cindy Royal
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Texas State University
croyal@txstate.edu
www.cindyroyal.com
Background
• The purpose of this study is to analyze the activities
performed by users of social networking sites.
• Social networking sites rely on content created by the
millions of users who develop profiles, communicate
with friends, meet people, participate in communities,
post comments to Web logs, and create multimedia.
• This project analyzes the usage of and activities
performed within social networking sites to better
understand their value to users.
Social Networks
Total U.S. Unique Visitors Feb. 2008 (millions)
MySpace 68
Facebook 32
YouTube 64
(comScore Press Releases, March 19, 2008)
MySpace purchased by Fox News Interactive for $500 million in 2005
YouTube purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006
Social networking is a global phenomenon. Although Friendster has lost
popularity to MySpace and Facebook in the U.S. (24 million U.S. unique
visitors as of June 2007), eighty-eight percent of Friendster’s users reside
in the Asia/Pacific region. Sixty-three percent of Bebo’s users 18 million
unique visitors reside in Europe (comScore Press Release, July 31, 2007).
Bebo was acquired by America Online for $850 million in March 2008
(“AOL Buys Bebo,” 2008).
Importance to Journalism
• Citizen Journalism
• Sites like USA Today allow rankings and comments
• Digg model
• Growing expectation of participation via user-generated content
• According to a Pew Center Study, young people who are savvy
with technology, known as “digital natives,” are frequently
creating and contributing online content. The study reported
that “more than half of American teenagers have created a blog,
posted an artistic or written creation online, helped build a
website, created an online profile, or uploaded photos and
videos to a website”
• Tool for journalists
• OpenID and OpenSocial - Web becomes social
• Implications for future business models; social ad models
Relevant Theory
• Uses and Gratifications
• Collaboration and Community theory
• Jenkins Participatory Culture - Driven by digital technologies,
Jenkins described a world that is bound not by a particular
medium or industry, but one in which consumer and producer
are merged, and culture is created by means of sharing and
participation.
Method
• A survey was developed to assess users’ activities on social
networking sites. In October 2007, a survey was administered
via Survey Monkey, an online survey service. Since the goal of
this project was to analyze the activities of users of social
networking sites, using an online survey was an efficient way to
reach this group.
• Users of social networking sites were invited to discuss the topic
of user-created content and to participate in the survey.
• Direct email correspondence was also used to engage the
researchers’ friends, family, colleagues, professional contacts,
and current and former students.
• Users were asked to forward information about the survey to
their network of friends and to encourage them to participate.
Research Questions
1. What percentage of members performs specific activities
on social networking sites?
2. How do activities differ based on gender?
3. How do activities differ based on age?
4. How do activities differ based on login frequency?
5. How do activities differ based on years using social
networks?
6. How do activities differ based on social network
membership?
Sample
• The survey was primarily intended for users of social
networking, so a snowball technique was used to generate a
wide sample of users.
• The survey spread very quickly, with users forwarding
messages to their network of friends, and encouraging others to
participate.
• Although this technique did not yield a random sample, the
breadth of social networking users it engaged was, in and of
itself, an interesting experiment in social networking.
• 384 respondents; 7 discarded due to incompleteness; 51
indicated they were not users of social networks
• Results of remaining 326 were analyzed - 64% female; 45%
were students
• Age - 18-24: 38%; 25-34: 37%; 35-44: 14%
Geographic Representation
Northeast
14%
Southeast
16%
Midwest
8%
Southwest
49%
West
4%
Outside U.S.
9%
Membership in Social Networks
• 46.3% were members of one social network, with 40.8% indicating membership
in two, 8 % with membership in three and 1.8% holding membership in four of
the sites we polled.
• 37.8% of the respondents indicated that they were members of both MySpace
and Facebook, with 16.8% using only MySpace, 34.7% only Facebook
• Tribe.net, Last.fm, Flickr, Orkut, and Ning.com
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Visited Member
Facebook MySpace YouTube Friendster LinkedIn
Activities Performed
83.1% 82.2%
79.4%
63.5%
60.7%
58.0%
40.5%
27.5% 26.1%
24.2%
16.6% 16.6% 15.6%
9.8%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Uploaded photos
Commented/made wall post
Joined group/network/channel
Changed profile layout
Sent/received IM
Responded to survey/poll
Blogged
Played games
Uploaded videoClicked on an ad
Purchased something
Uploaded audio
Created survey/poll
Sold something
By Gender
Significant differences found only in Changed Profile Layout, Uploaded
Photos, and Sent Received IM
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Changed profile layout
Uploaded photosSent/received IM
Commented/made wall post
Sold somethingUploaded video
Blogged
Purchased something
Played games
Joined group/network/channel
Created survey/poll
Responded to survey/poll
Uploaded audioClicked on an ad
Female
Male
By Age
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Changed profile layout
Uploaded photosSent/received IM
Commented/made wall post
Joined group/network/channel
Played games
Purchased something
Blogged
Uploaded video
Created survey/poll
Clicked on an adUploaded audioSold something
Responded to survey/poll
18-24
25-34
35-44
45-54
55-62
Significant differences found in Changed Profile Layout, Uploaded Photos, Sent/Received IM,
Commented/Made Wall Post, Joined Group/Network/Channel, Played Games
Login Frequency
0.0%
10.0%
20.0%
30.0%
40.0%
50.0%
60.0%
70.0%
80.0%
90.0%
100.0%
Changed profile layout
Uploaded photos
Commented/made wall post
Joined group/network/channel
Blogged
Uploaded videoClicked on an adUploaded audio
Played games
Responded to survey/poll
Sent/received IM
Sold something
Purchased something
Created survey/poll
<1/month
1/month
1/week
2-3/week
4-5/week
1/day
2-3/day
4-5/day
>5/day
Significant differences found in all except sold something, purchased something,
created survey/poll
Years
Significant differences found in all except uploaded audio and
uploaded video
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Uploaded photos
Commented or made a wall post
Blogged
Created a survey or poll
Clicked on an adSold something
Played games
Changed profile layout
Joined a group, network, or channelSent or received an instant message
Responded to a survey or poll
Purchased something
Uploaded videoUploaded audio
1-2
3-4
5-7
8-10
11+
By Social Network
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Commented/made wall post
Uploaded photosUploaded videoUploaded audio
Joined group/network/channel
Responded to survey/poll
Created survey/poll
Blogged
Sent/received IMClicked on an ad
Purchased something
Sold something
Changed profile layout
Played games
MySpace
Facebook
YouTube
Discussion
• Broad range of activities engaged by users of social networking sites.
• Activities reflect a strong trend in the frequency and variety of content
created by online users, and the expectation of participation.
• The most frequently mentioned activities across all demographics were
uploading photos and making comments or wall posts.
• Gender predicted differences in only a few activities, with a wider range
of activities being driven by age of participant and experience,
measured separately by frequency of login and years using a social
network.
• As users gained more experience, activities such as blogging, creating
surveys or polls, and engaging with varied forms of multimedia become
relevant.
• New implications to business model - Dallas Smythe (2001) - theory of
audience labor. Rather than selling cultural works (and their embedded
ideologies), the culture industries sell audiences to advertisers.
Future Research
1. What are the reasons users create content?
2. What concerns do users have about user-created content, both
their own and that of others?
3. What are user-expected rewards or outcomes of creating
content, both financial and non-financial?
-
1.00
2.00
3.00
4.00
5.00
Privacy
Friendship/Community
Copyright
Creative Expression
Interaction/FameInformed Citizen
Activism
Addiction/Excessive Use
Efficiency UGC Value

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  • 1. What Do People Do Online? Implications For the Future of Media Cindy Royal Assistant Professor School of Journalism and Mass Communication Texas State University croyal@txstate.edu www.cindyroyal.com
  • 2. Background • The purpose of this study is to analyze the activities performed by users of social networking sites. • Social networking sites rely on content created by the millions of users who develop profiles, communicate with friends, meet people, participate in communities, post comments to Web logs, and create multimedia. • This project analyzes the usage of and activities performed within social networking sites to better understand their value to users.
  • 3. Social Networks Total U.S. Unique Visitors Feb. 2008 (millions) MySpace 68 Facebook 32 YouTube 64 (comScore Press Releases, March 19, 2008) MySpace purchased by Fox News Interactive for $500 million in 2005 YouTube purchased by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006 Social networking is a global phenomenon. Although Friendster has lost popularity to MySpace and Facebook in the U.S. (24 million U.S. unique visitors as of June 2007), eighty-eight percent of Friendster’s users reside in the Asia/Pacific region. Sixty-three percent of Bebo’s users 18 million unique visitors reside in Europe (comScore Press Release, July 31, 2007). Bebo was acquired by America Online for $850 million in March 2008 (“AOL Buys Bebo,” 2008).
  • 4. Importance to Journalism • Citizen Journalism • Sites like USA Today allow rankings and comments • Digg model • Growing expectation of participation via user-generated content • According to a Pew Center Study, young people who are savvy with technology, known as “digital natives,” are frequently creating and contributing online content. The study reported that “more than half of American teenagers have created a blog, posted an artistic or written creation online, helped build a website, created an online profile, or uploaded photos and videos to a website” • Tool for journalists • OpenID and OpenSocial - Web becomes social • Implications for future business models; social ad models
  • 5. Relevant Theory • Uses and Gratifications • Collaboration and Community theory • Jenkins Participatory Culture - Driven by digital technologies, Jenkins described a world that is bound not by a particular medium or industry, but one in which consumer and producer are merged, and culture is created by means of sharing and participation.
  • 6. Method • A survey was developed to assess users’ activities on social networking sites. In October 2007, a survey was administered via Survey Monkey, an online survey service. Since the goal of this project was to analyze the activities of users of social networking sites, using an online survey was an efficient way to reach this group. • Users of social networking sites were invited to discuss the topic of user-created content and to participate in the survey. • Direct email correspondence was also used to engage the researchers’ friends, family, colleagues, professional contacts, and current and former students. • Users were asked to forward information about the survey to their network of friends and to encourage them to participate.
  • 7. Research Questions 1. What percentage of members performs specific activities on social networking sites? 2. How do activities differ based on gender? 3. How do activities differ based on age? 4. How do activities differ based on login frequency? 5. How do activities differ based on years using social networks? 6. How do activities differ based on social network membership?
  • 8. Sample • The survey was primarily intended for users of social networking, so a snowball technique was used to generate a wide sample of users. • The survey spread very quickly, with users forwarding messages to their network of friends, and encouraging others to participate. • Although this technique did not yield a random sample, the breadth of social networking users it engaged was, in and of itself, an interesting experiment in social networking. • 384 respondents; 7 discarded due to incompleteness; 51 indicated they were not users of social networks • Results of remaining 326 were analyzed - 64% female; 45% were students • Age - 18-24: 38%; 25-34: 37%; 35-44: 14%
  • 10. Membership in Social Networks • 46.3% were members of one social network, with 40.8% indicating membership in two, 8 % with membership in three and 1.8% holding membership in four of the sites we polled. • 37.8% of the respondents indicated that they were members of both MySpace and Facebook, with 16.8% using only MySpace, 34.7% only Facebook • Tribe.net, Last.fm, Flickr, Orkut, and Ning.com 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Visited Member Facebook MySpace YouTube Friendster LinkedIn
  • 11. Activities Performed 83.1% 82.2% 79.4% 63.5% 60.7% 58.0% 40.5% 27.5% 26.1% 24.2% 16.6% 16.6% 15.6% 9.8% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Uploaded photos Commented/made wall post Joined group/network/channel Changed profile layout Sent/received IM Responded to survey/poll Blogged Played games Uploaded videoClicked on an ad Purchased something Uploaded audio Created survey/poll Sold something
  • 12. By Gender Significant differences found only in Changed Profile Layout, Uploaded Photos, and Sent Received IM 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Changed profile layout Uploaded photosSent/received IM Commented/made wall post Sold somethingUploaded video Blogged Purchased something Played games Joined group/network/channel Created survey/poll Responded to survey/poll Uploaded audioClicked on an ad Female Male
  • 13. By Age 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Changed profile layout Uploaded photosSent/received IM Commented/made wall post Joined group/network/channel Played games Purchased something Blogged Uploaded video Created survey/poll Clicked on an adUploaded audioSold something Responded to survey/poll 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-62 Significant differences found in Changed Profile Layout, Uploaded Photos, Sent/Received IM, Commented/Made Wall Post, Joined Group/Network/Channel, Played Games
  • 14. Login Frequency 0.0% 10.0% 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% 50.0% 60.0% 70.0% 80.0% 90.0% 100.0% Changed profile layout Uploaded photos Commented/made wall post Joined group/network/channel Blogged Uploaded videoClicked on an adUploaded audio Played games Responded to survey/poll Sent/received IM Sold something Purchased something Created survey/poll <1/month 1/month 1/week 2-3/week 4-5/week 1/day 2-3/day 4-5/day >5/day Significant differences found in all except sold something, purchased something, created survey/poll
  • 15. Years Significant differences found in all except uploaded audio and uploaded video 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Uploaded photos Commented or made a wall post Blogged Created a survey or poll Clicked on an adSold something Played games Changed profile layout Joined a group, network, or channelSent or received an instant message Responded to a survey or poll Purchased something Uploaded videoUploaded audio 1-2 3-4 5-7 8-10 11+
  • 16. By Social Network 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Commented/made wall post Uploaded photosUploaded videoUploaded audio Joined group/network/channel Responded to survey/poll Created survey/poll Blogged Sent/received IMClicked on an ad Purchased something Sold something Changed profile layout Played games MySpace Facebook YouTube
  • 17. Discussion • Broad range of activities engaged by users of social networking sites. • Activities reflect a strong trend in the frequency and variety of content created by online users, and the expectation of participation. • The most frequently mentioned activities across all demographics were uploading photos and making comments or wall posts. • Gender predicted differences in only a few activities, with a wider range of activities being driven by age of participant and experience, measured separately by frequency of login and years using a social network. • As users gained more experience, activities such as blogging, creating surveys or polls, and engaging with varied forms of multimedia become relevant. • New implications to business model - Dallas Smythe (2001) - theory of audience labor. Rather than selling cultural works (and their embedded ideologies), the culture industries sell audiences to advertisers.
  • 18. Future Research 1. What are the reasons users create content? 2. What concerns do users have about user-created content, both their own and that of others? 3. What are user-expected rewards or outcomes of creating content, both financial and non-financial? - 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Privacy Friendship/Community Copyright Creative Expression Interaction/FameInformed Citizen Activism Addiction/Excessive Use Efficiency UGC Value

Editor's Notes

  1. When respondents were asked which social network sites they had visited, YouTube garnered the most attention at 91.1%, with MySpace at 88.3% and Facebook at 80.4%. Twenty-one percent indicated they had visited Friendster and 35% had visited LinkedIn. The high numbers for MySpace and YouTube are indicative of the open nature of these sites. While members can post content, much of the content of these sites is available for the general public. Many bands and other artists use MySpace pages as their primary Web site, and YouTube is generally used to propagate a variety of videos that can be viewed by all.
  2. In addition to the specific content items that were listed in the survey, an open-ended question revealed that users also enjoyed adding widgets, searching for friends, marketing products, and participating in online events.