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The Lowdown On The Latest Internet Trends in Northern Ireland for 2017 (OFCOM CMR 2017)


WANT to know how long people spend online per week in Northern Ireland? Which age group takes the most selfies? A surprising stat on internet usage amongst over-55s? Whether certain types of mobile phone float?

All these and more are coming up...

Good data on UK internet trends can be hard to come by and is even more scarce for Northern Ireland.

OFCOM's annual communications report is therefore widely-anticipated by the online/digital community across the region and is based on a mix of face-to-face and online surveys of around 4,000 people across the UK.

The full report for Northern Ireland is 94 pages...don't worry, I've taken the key bits and distilled that into three!

Keep reading for the lowdown on this year's internet and online trends in Northern Ireland...


The latest OFCOM Communications Market Report 2017 is entitled 'Box-Set Britain' due to the explosion of Netflix, catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer and 'binge-watching' with 8 out of 10 adults in the UK (40 million people) indulging in these rather than traditional TV.

After all, why be restricted by inflexible TV schedules when you can watch your favourite shows on-demand, whenever you like?

Possibly the saddest stat from the report, however, is that 51% of people watch from their bedrooms.

Yes - more than half of us regularly lock ourselves away in darkened rooms to binge-watch the last four episodes of 'Game of Thrones' or whatever the latest show is that Netflix recommends when we log in!

Unless you are a moody teenager (I get it, we've all been there) and NEED a bedroom TV to play the latest 'Call of Duty' game on your PS4, watch endless 'Twilight' box sets or for 'Netflix & Chill' purposes, personally, I think bedroom TV's are a serious relationship killer.

I mean, why talk to your partner when the White Walkers are advancing and you have to know what happens next, or Frank Underwood is finally about to be arrested for one of the million crimes he has committed over five seasons of 'House of Cards'?

Or, maybe I'm just old-fashioned being anti-bedroom TV's? Let me know in the comments...

A Selfie State

No matter how much you might despise selfies (ask anyone that knows me, I still don't know how people can take them seriously), they are here to stay especially amongst the younger population.

According to the study, 34% of 18-24-year-olds say they post selfies more often than any other type of picture.

However, the report doesn't clarify whether a 'selfie' also includes those Instagram shots where some guy calling himself a 'Social Media Influencer & CEO of Myself' tells a friend to 'take a picture of me staring moodily into the distance and trying to look casual-yet-intellectual, as I lean against this Ferrari that happened to be parked in the street...'

As for the population as a whole, the study says that these are our favourite types of images:


Nice to see pets high up there - cute puppies and funny cat videos will never get old, will they?

But enough about TV, selfies, the Insta-famous and the rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland Internet Trends 2017

In sunny Northern Ireland, it seems that the amount of smartphones in circulation hasn't changed significantly over the last year, although with every twelve-year-old these days seemingly already in possession of an iPhone or Samsung, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by this.

I remember not getting my first phone til I was about 17 - the light blue one below which was rather unkindly referred to by my flatmates at uni as 'the bath toy'...


And no, it didn't float.

The chart coming up from the OFCOM study shows how Northern Ireland is broadly in line with the rest of the UK with 76% of the population saying they own a smartphone - a small increase of 4% on 2016.

This has slowed somewhat from the 9% jump between 2015 and 2016; but perhaps most interestingly the chart illustrates how smartphone use has more than doubled here over the past 5 years (from only 34% in 2012 to 76% now), as smartphones have become both more affordable and more 'necessary' in modern life.


The report continues with a similar illustration of the popularity of tablets in Northern Ireland these days.

Whilst still not as popular as smartphones, 62% of the population now own one, a minor increase on 2016 of only 2%.

Interestingly, this 62% figure is higher than anywhere else in the UK (England, for example, declined 1% to 58%).

If anyone can think of a good reason for this please let me know in the comments because I've been racking my brain and am still unable to come up with one!

Nice to see NI leading the way, though.

51% of those surveyed said they owned 'at least two or more tablets', again perhaps not surprising as, going further than 12-year-olds owning iPhones, even most 5-year-olds these days seem to have their own tablets to watch endless Peppa Pig re-runs on YouTube with!


With all these tablets and smartphones floating around, how long are people in Northern Ireland spending online in 2017?

The study puts this figure at 20.3 hours per week - a number lower than anywhere else in the UK - with over half of these 'online hours' being at home (12.2 hours).


But what are we doing in these 20.3 hours online every week?

The study offered people 21 options here, including the rather unhelpful and vague 'Any' and 'General' categories which unsurprisingly proved the two most popular, as well as unfortunately being the least enlightening or insightful.

Ignoring those, the third most popular response was 'sending and receiving email' with 72% saying they did this regularly (55% in the last week), which strikes me as low given most people have email set up on their smartphones/tablets so you'd expect them to be doing this on a daily basis?

Online shopping is, of course, next on the list with 66% regularly spending their pounds on the internet (36% within the last week), closely followed by social networks where 60% of NI users spend their time.

You can see the rest of the data below - and right at the bottom and a new entry for 2017 - the real tech-heads who use their smartphones as TV remote controls or to monitor household appliances!

There are hours of fun to be had when your Dad thinks he's in possession of the only TV remote control in the house, little realising you can change the channel and volume using your Samsung phone...

Just don't overdo it, or one day you'll come home and find he's thrown out a perfectly-good TV and spent £700 for no reason on a brand new one (this actually happened to a friend of mine!)


Now that we know what internet users in Northern Ireland like to spend their online time doing, what are the most popular devices to do all this on?

58% said the smartphone was their favoured method of accessing the net, a significant increase on the rest of the UK where only 42% favoured smartphones.

There were intriguing variances by age group as 77% of 16-34-year-olds considered smartphones to be their favourite; a number that dropped to 60% in the 35-54 age bracket and then even further amongst the over 55's, where only 25% had the smartphone as their number one.

In fact, tablets were most popular amongst over 55s, with 36% saying they used them more than any other device for getting online.




So, as marketers, what are some of the main nuggets of information about internet usage habits in Northern Ireland that we can take from the data above?

  • 18-24 year-olds post selfies more than anything else, suggesting that if you plan on running social media campaigns targeted at this demographic, things like selfie hashtag contests would be a pretty good bet

  • Overall smartphone usage growth seems to be slowing but has still more than doubled in the past five years

  • Tablet usage is higher in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK

  • Over 55s prefer using tablets rather than smartphones for browsing the internet

  • If you are targeting ads at the 16-34 age group, going mobile would seem the way to go as 77% of them spend most of their time online via smartphones

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions put them in the comments below (this section may not show if you are on the mobile/AMP version of the page so send me an email instead) and I will answer them as best I can!

If you enjoyed reading, make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the page (or here on mobile) to stay updated with my upcoming digital marketing news, helpful tips and useful content.


You can view the full OFCOM CMR 2017 document here. All tables and data used in this blog came from the report


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