This report provides an overview of metrics relating to UK adults' online participation in citizen-orientated content and services; in other words, those elements of online activity which further societal or democratic participation.
A selected range of core topics are covered, including use of government websites, e-petitions, health, public service broadcasting, news, local websites, hyperlocal sites, citizen journalism, cultural activities and libraries. It is the first time that we have examined these activities together, and we have done so to gain a clearer picture of their relative performance online. Where possible, findings are provided for the devolved nations as well as for the UK as a whole.
The report is published as part of our Annual Plan commitment to providing information and high quality research to understand levels of participation in communications services across the UK and its nations. The main data source used is the comScore online measurement system (-1-), supplemented with a selected range of published survey research.
The report is designed to be an exploratory examination of the landscape. We welcome comments on our approach and the topics covered, and suggestions as to how it can be modified in any future publications.
Nearly half (48%) of internet users aged 15+ use any kind of government website, including local authority sites(-2-) . One in five (20%) use the GOV.UK website, the government ‘portal' for a range of content and services. Users of these sites are more likely to be in the AB socio-economic group and in older age-groups.
After the GOV.UK website (7.7 million users), the most popular websites are HMRC (2.98 million users), the police (1.3 million), the Home Office (1.3 million) and the DWP (0.9 million). According to Ofcom survey research, three-quarters of internet users say they have ever found out information about public services online, and six in ten say they have ever completed government processes online. In the devolved nations, government websites are relatively more popular in Northern Ireland than in Scotland or Wales.
Non-government websites that aim to provide citizens with information about the workings of Parliament or public authorities show low levels of use. However, one in five online users, according to survey data, say they have ever signed a petition online.
Four in ten (41%) internet users visit any type of health information website. The NHS website is the most used, with a unique audience of 7.1 million (18% reach). Visitors are more likely to be women, and to spend far longer on the site (49 minutes, vs. 11 minutes for men).
WebMD is the next most popular website for health, albeit with less than half the active reach of the NHS.
Across the nations, NHS sites and WebMD are the top two websites by active reach. The BBC News Health website has a greater active reach in England and Scotland than in Wales or Northern Ireland.
The BBC is the most popular public service broadcasting (PSB) website, by a considerable margin, with an active reach of over half of all internet users (55%).
The BBC is also the most-used website for news provision. According to survey research, 52% of online news users say they use it, while 19% say they use Facebook. Sixteen per cent use the Google search engine, and 14% use the Sky News website.
Over half of UK internet users visit blogging websites (58%). The most popular site is Blogger, with around one third (32%) visiting in March 2013. Almost one in five (18%) visited Wordpress.com and 14% visited Tumblr. Blogging sites are more popular in Northern Ireland than in other nations.
According to survey research, over four in ten UK adults (44%) say they browse online for local news and information monthly or more often, and around one in six say they use apps for specific local news or community websites. While TV is most likely to be nominated as the most important local source (49%), 14% of regular local online news users nominate that as their most important source of local news.
Research shows that the number of active hyperlocal websites has increased rapidly in the last few years - from 295 sites in 2010 to 499 sites in 2013, according to analysis of the Openly Local database(-3-) . Most of these sites appear to be located in urban areas.
According to the Taking Part DCMS tracking study, two in five adults in England have participated digitally in some sort of cultural activity, with those aged 25-44 more likely to have done so. One third had visited a theatre or concert website, three in ten (29%) had visited heritage websites, and a quarter (26%) had visited a museum or gallery website.
Older people are more likely to engage with archive and heritage sites than other types of citizen activity; one third (32%) of visitors to the National Archives website are aged 55+.
According to the DCMS tracking study, there has been growth in the use of library websites, from 11% of people in England in 2008/9 to 16% in 2011/12. While most use is for searching and viewing online information, over one third (36%) say they have completed a library transaction online.
The British Library is used by 1% of internet users, and is more likely to be used by older people and those in the AB socio-economic group.
1.- We have used the comScore Media Metrix service (MMX) to measure internet use on PCs/laptops. While data including mobile and tablet use is available from comScore’s MMX Multi-Platform service, trend data was not available for the analysis period and so we have not included it in this report.