Monday, April 23, 2007

Surprise! Women Undeniable Majority Of Internet Users

According to eMarketer, women outnumber men online, and it's likely to stay that way:
Not only do females make up the majority of Internet users, but more of the female population goes online. This year, an estimated 66.2% of US females ages 3 and older will use the Internet at least once a month, compared with 64.2% of males, according to eMarketer. By 2011, 72.1% of females are expected to go online, vs. 69.3% of males.
According to their report:
Amid all the excitement online video is causing, marketers must keep one fact in mind: Of the estimated 97 million females online in the US, only 66% of them actually watch videos online, compared with 78% of males who do.
One thing they are quick to note is that women are not less savvy than men when it comes to Internet technology. And they believe that Web 2.0 (aka social networking) will only increase female use.

Why this continual surprise that women are using the Internet? Women outnumber men, so we should outnumber men on the Internet, yes?

But then in more in-depth news coverage of the eMarketer report, both in Reuters and in Sydney Morning Herald, eMarketer's senior analyst, Debra Aho Williamson, makes broader gender claims which seem to make this report more 'surprising.'

I was reminded the early days of the Internet, when many feared that women would never adopt it ~ or at least not in the way males had. This was easily a decade ago, and we're still talking about it? Sheesh. We've gone from ugly Geocities pages to ugly MySpace pages, from FrontPage to blogging, and from static html to all sorts of scripts and toys, so maybe we're still slow to understand what's important here.

They were partly right; women do use the Internet differently.

During those days, ecommerce was a large 'threat' to the way of WWW life ~ it was a perversion of what they held sacred. Sort of like the good old boys business club where they greedily yell "mine, Mine, MINE", only instead of old white men, the Internet had really young boys (most of whom were white too) and these kids and twenty-somethings thought it was all theirs and they didn't want to change.

But ecommerce came along and women were strong adopters of online shopping. No mere coincidence in my mind.

While men surfed for consumer reports, reviews and price comparisons, they still purchased locally in person. Women on the other hand, loved the time savings of shopping and purchasing online. They could sit at home in their jammies, after the kids were asleep, and complete so many shopping errands... This of course led to mommies and others to making the Internet a tool for simplification of their lives. Email, ecards, maps and other tools proved the pc was more than just a toy. But of course, more time online meant they would find other joys of the Internet.

While Williamson doesn't say anything which completely contradicts gender roles, there is still this aura of surprise.

Women are huge consumers, including of technology. Women are humans first, so we will be drawn to many of the same activities and uses of the Internet and technology. But our roles are different, so we may be drawn more to somethings more than others.

Women tend to be more social in terms of talking not just 'hanging out' so we likely will participate more in chats, forums, discussions and blogging than men who will just forward a video or a link to a website. Women and men may be interested in many of the same things, but women will want to talk about why they are interested in something whereas men typically think forwarding a clip or link is self-explanatory ~ it's all that needs to be said.

So why this continual surprise over the differences in gender usage? It's not like women stop being human when confronted with new things. Nor do our 'real world' gender differences cease to exist online.

(Those who think women are so different would likely buy this bridge I have for sale... It's in Brooklyn and if you charged a toll you could really rake it in! I also can also put you in touch with a man in Africa who has millions of dollars to deposit in your bank account ~ just email me your bank account and routing information. Since women are so different from men these offers from a woman must be true!)

But then again, the gaming industry long underestimated the number of women ~ including older women (30s-40s) ~ who were active gamers spending lots of cash & entire weekends playing games. Fundamentally, both the teenage boys and the more mature women played games for the same reason: to escape & to compete, but marketers still seem to be struggling to use this knowledge in both the creation of games and the presentation of games.

So why would should I expect pundits to recognize that women are a strong segment of this market, powerful users of this technology?

I guess maybe it will take more 'surprising' numbers in 'surprising' studies to convince them all.

...Meanwhile, if anyone is interested in that bridge, contact me.

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