Global TNS study says 29% of leisure time is spent online

Canadians come in slightly under that mark, whiling away 28% of their spare time online, with weather watching a top priority for most.

Canadians spend about 28% of their leisure time online – just 1% percent lower than the global average – states the global research company TNS in a worldwide study examining online consumer engagement with the internet.

The 16-country study, titled Digital World, Digital Life, states that consumers worldwide allocate similar percentages of their total amount of free time to online activities – 29% on average – regardless of how many hours they have available each day. For instance, respondents with up to two hours of spare time each week day spend the same proportion of that time online as those who have between seven and eight hours of leisure time each day.

Almost 27,522 people between 18-55 in countries such as Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US were interviewed for the study.

When consumers were asked to identify the range of activities they engaged in online during the month prior to the survey, the top results were all inherently practical: 81% said they used a search engine to find information; reading news (76%) came in second; followed by banking (74%); checking the weather (65%); and researching a product or service before buying it (63%).

On the entertainment front, watching video clips topped the list(51%), followed by downloading music (37%), visiting a social networking site (33%), visiting an adult-only web site (19%) and downloading a podcast (8%), states a release by TNS.

While the top five list of online leisure activities for Canadians does not differ greatly from the global list, Canadians stood true to their ‘weather-searching obsession’ (78%), coming second only to using a search engine (84%), David Stark, TNS VP public affairs tells MiC.

The fast pace of life in Canada also means that paying bills online was used more often by Canadians, with seven in 10 people here claiming to perform this function online, placing it within their top five activities. This activity fell outside of the top five on a global level, with only 56% of respondents across all 16 markets mentioning it.

Stark says that the despite Canadian tech savvy, only 3% of Canadians access the internet via their mobile phones daily. As with countries such as France and Spain, Canada lags far behind Asian markets. For instance, more than one-quarter of Japanese and Chinese respondents access the Internet over mobile connections daily.

Who are the most avid cybernauts in the world? ‘Young people under 25, as might be expected, are seriously engaged with the internet, claiming to spend well over one-third (36%) of their leisure time online (globally),’ says Michael Ennamorato, executive VP of TNS in Toronto. While Chinese respondents under 25 spend half of their free time online, Canada is more closely aligned with the global average, as Canadians under 25 claim to spend 39% of their spare time online.

If the world is to take its lead from Japan and Korea – countries that are seen as innovative and pioneering in the digital world – then we can expect to spend even more time online in the future, states the release. In those countries, consumers say they currently spend on average around two-fifths of their leisure time online.

The research looked at how consumers are using the internet for entertainment, information and commerce. It also analyzed the extent to which people are using online channels when making major life decisions, in such areas as health, family, education, and investments. The research also measured the development of social media, and the degree to which consumers place trust in online sources of information, compared to traditional offline media or recommendations from friends.

In Canada, TNS Canadian Facts randomly selected a national sample from its Internet access panel and completed interviews with 1,007 Canadians between Feb. 12 and Mar. 5, 2008.