Surveying the Scenesters: China in the Web 2.0 World

Surveying the Scenesters: China in the Web 2.0 World

— By Gregory Solman / AdWeek

NEW YORK Despite a fourfold difference in population, the broadband
markets in the U.S. and China are remarkably comparable, with 107
million users in China and 101 million here. But, according to the
first Media-Screen Netpop survey of 4,000 Chinese broadband users, that
is where the similarities end.

Internet users make up less than 14 percent of China’s population,
compared to the nearly saturated U.S. market, where roughly 71 percent
of Americans have Web access. Chinese "broadbanders," as Netpop calls
them, are also an average 10 years younger than their American
counterparts. What’s more, they are better educated–67 percent have at
least a college degree compared with 40 percent in the U.S.–and they
are more likely to be employed (80 percent versus 61 percent).

For these reasons, the survey’s authors contend that China’s
broadband users disproportionately influence the consumer marketplace.
Josh Crandall, managing director of the San Francisco-based research
firm, said this population is already "very comfortable with
user-generated content. One of the biggest surprises was the diversity
and volume of content that the Chinese are contributing–they’re very
active with blogging, in forums and on discussion boards."

The report, "China and the U.S. in a Web 2.0 World," also reveals
that nearly half of all Chinese broadbanders ages 13 to 35 contribute
something online in a typical month, compared to only about 15 percent
of younger Americans. The Chinese are also more likely to publish a
blog (40 percent to 13 percent), review a product (32 percent to 22
percent) and use chat rooms (45 percent to 16 percent).

Chinese youth also reported being more involved in community-based
activities, and they are almost twice as likely as Americans to join
communities built around content. Although more U.S. users still
recommend things to family and friends (31 percent to 27 percent), the
practice has declined 15 percent in the U.S. since 2006, when Netpop
started its survey. According to Crandall, this reflects the dominance
of younger, elite opinion-makers in the Chinese broadband market,
versus more mainstream American users.

While 72 percent of young Americans access the Internet from home
rather than work (17 percent), equivalent aged Chinese more evenly
split their access between home (49 percent) and work (31 percent).
"Broadband in the home is less common in China, but it is often
subsidized in the workplace," Crandall said.

More than a third of the Chinese surveyed access the Web through a
mobile device such as a cell phone or wireless local phone, not yet a
factor in the U.S., where only a fifth of users go mobile. "The mobile
pricing model for downloads is more affordable than in the U.S., where
the focus is on higher-end business executives," Crandall said.

When it comes to purchase decisions, Chinese youth spend about 30
minutes more on online research than Americans. They are also more
likely to use an online source (and more of them) and turn to
user-generated content such as consumer reviews when researching a
product. The Chinese even use search engines (48 percent to 27 percent)
and comparison-shopping sites (27 percent to 11 percent) more than
Americans. The Chinese are "positively responding to advertising online
and reacting in a similar fashion to the U.S., including researching
purchases online for almost three hours a purchase," said Crandall,
adding that an upcoming survey of Chinese consumers Media-Screen
expects to release early next year will delve deeper into their online
buying behavior.

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