A new report out from Pew Internet says that based on a survey from May, search and email are the top two activities online adults engage in on the web. The number is 92% for both. 59% used search on a typical day. 61% use email on an average day, however.
"Since the Pew Internet Project began measuring adults' online activities in the last decade, these two behaviors have consistently ranked as the most popular," says Kristen Purcell for Pew Internet. "Even as early as 2002, more than eight in ten online adults were using search engines, and more than nine in ten online adults were emailing."
"Email and search form the core of online communication and online information gathering, respectively," says Purcell. "And they have done so for nearly a decade, even as new platforms, broadband and mobile devices continue to reshape the way Americans use the internet and web. Perhaps the most significant change over that time is that both activities have become more habitual. Today, roughly six in ten online adults engage in each of these activities on a typical day; in 2002, 49% of online adults used email each day, while just 29% used a search engine daily. "
One very interesting aspect of Pew's email data is that the people using email most are the youngest demographic surveyed (18-29). This is all the more interesting, considering claims once made by Facebook that email is "probably going away" because of younger generations gravitating more towards texting and social media. Of course that was before Facebook itself began offering email addresses.
"Email is similar to search (and many other online activities) in that the youngest online adults, the college-educated, and those in the highest income categories are more likely than others to engage in the activity," says Purcell. "These demographic differences are considerably more pronounced when one looks at email use on a typical day. Moreover, while overall email use is comparable across white, African-American and Hispanic online adults, internet use on any given day is not. White online adults are significantly more likely than both African-American and Hispanic online adults to be email users on a typical day (63% v. 48% v. 53%, respectively)."
Social media is certainly growing as an online activity, though that growth has slowed tremendously over the last couple years, as you can see from the top graph. It's still below buying products online, getting news online, and of course search and email.
However, the lines are getting blurrier among some of these things. People are, for example, getting more of their news through social network sites. Facebook is combining email and social media messaging into one "social inbox".
It will also be interesting to see the impact Google+ has on Internet culture. While still in its very early days, it has been growing rather quickly, and the more people that use it, the more people will have access to Gmail, by simply having a Google account. How much they use it in relation to Google+ circles and streams remains to be seen.
For now, however, it looks like email is still king of the hill when it comes to online communication. That says a lot about the value of effective email marketing.