MANILA, Philippines?Enter a roomful of people from different sections of society and chances are, three of 10 of them will say they surf the worldwide web.
While the Internet penetration rate in the country has remained in the high single-digit level, more and more Filipinos, particularly those in urban areas, are getting hooked on online activity.
A recent survey, dubbed the Yahoo-Nielsen Net Index 2008, conducted by measurement and analysis firm Nielsen Company and Internet juggernaut Yahoo, reveals that 28 percent of Filipinos in National Urban Philippines?or in 22 major cities, including Metro Manila?access the Internet.
Around 5 percent of those surveyed say they go online every day, the Net Index further reveals.
The survey was conducted from October-November 2008, with a sample size of 1,200. Those polled ranged in age from 10 to more than 50.
Young Filipinos are the most attracted to the Internet, the survey shows, with 50 percent of those in the 10 to 19-year-old age bracket accessing the Internet in the past month. Another strong user category is that of the 20 to 29-year-olds, with 41 percent going online.
Internet use is also skewed towards the more upscale and well-educated, according to the survey.
While Internet use is usually associated with Metro Manila cities, the Net Index reveals that going online is not a Metro Manila phenomenon.
According to Nielsen Company (Philippines) Inc. executive director for media Jay Bautista, Internet use cuts across geographic boundaries, not just age groups and income brackets.
?Internet use is not restricted just to the big cities like Metro Manila. Other cities are experiencing Internet growth,? he says.
In terms of attitude, the Net Index shows that Internet consumers are more likely to want to stand out in the crowd than traditional media consumers.
Looking young, being fashion-forward and keeping abreast with the latest developments in technology are also important to Netizens.
They are also more likely to want to own high-quality things and are more willing to pay extra for them.
Among Internet-related activities, staying in touch via e-mail and instant messaging (IM) is king. The survey shows that, on a monthly basis, 63 percent access the Internet for these two activities.
Bautista says 63 percent of the contacts of local e-mail and IM users are not from the Philippines.
?Local Internet users obviously want to keep in touch with loved ones and friends overseas,? he says, adding that the huge number of Filipinos living and working overseas contributes to this trend.
For both e-mail and IM, Yahoo is the No. 1 service provider, the survey shows.
Apart from keeping in touch, Filipino Internet users are also using the Internet to be more informed about anything and everything, to play games and to socialize.
The Net Index shows that 58 percent of Pinoy Netizens use search engines, with Yahoo again being the dominant provider, followed by Google.
Around 53 percent of local Internet users play online games. This specific segment is composed mainly of males below the age of 20.
Being a country of very social people, social networking is also among the key Internet functions that Filipinos use, with 51 percent of those polled saying they have visited a social networking site in the past month.
Bautista says reasons for visiting and using such sites include to pass the time (49 percent), to stay in touch with family and friends (45 percent), to send e-mail (45 percent) and to learn more about friends (42 percent).
By a huge margin, Friendster is still the No. 1 social networking site in the country, used by 92 percent of those in the Net Index poll. Video sharing site YouTube, where teen singing sensation Charice Pempengco was discovered by the world, is a far No. 2, with 26 percent of those surveyed using it.
Yahoo Groups claim third place with 23 percent, followed by Google Groups with 15 percent.
Globally, Yahoo Southeast Asia vice president and managing director Ken Mandel says the company is poised to take advantage of this social networking boom by becoming ?more social? itself.
?We?re going to do social network aggregation. There are already too many social networks out there, and we don?t want to jump in and add to that. What we want is to aggregate these into one starting point,? he relates. ?The idea here is vitality. We?re making more of our products more social. We?re going to deliver a smarter inbox for Yahoo users.?
And why not? He says online social networking ad spend in Asia should hit $260 million this year, $345 million next year and $415 million by 2011.
?Asia is growing faster than the rest of the world,? he reveals.
Yahoo Philippines general manager Joselito ?Jojo? Anoñuevo says the results of the Net Index may change the way local advertisers apportion their advertising budgets, particularly during these times of recession.
?This study reveals the opportunity for marketers and media planners in the Philippines to re-examine advertising strategies and utilize the Internet as an effective way to reach and engage with target consumers,? he says.
He adds that companies and ad agencies can now come up with an integrated marketing campaign that couples traditional media such as print with the Internet?ultimately giving more bang for the advertising buck.
Bautista says the Net Index will allow local advertisers to make more intelligent advertising decisions. Data that drive ad placements?ratings for television and radio, readership for newspapers and magazines?are now also available for the Internet.
?The argument against online advertising before is that there is no way to measure the returns on ad spend, unlike for TV and radio where we have ratings and for newspapers where we have readership data,? he relates. ?Now the metrics [for the Internet] are here. The Internet can now operate like any other media because of these metrics.?
In 2008, he says total ad spend in the country reached P160 billion, with TV accounting for 78 percent of this, radio 17 percent and print a mere 5 percent.
?But the way the pie is divided could change. TV and radio are relatively recession-proof. The Internet can also be recession-proof because of the different access points: At home, in the office, in Internet cafés and via the mobile phone,? he says.
Having concrete metrics in place, he says, is seen driving more advertisers to plunk more advertising pesos into the digital media.
He says: ?Digital media?s success in today?s advertising landscape is dependent on its accountability to the advertiser, the media agency and its stakeholders. Nielsen Media is proud to be partnering with Yahoo to provide the Philippine advertising and media industry with the most comprehensive and geographically extensive study on the online Filipino, his profile, his online activities, his attitudes and how he consumes digital media in the context of other media.?