350,000 New Cybernauts Each Month

Russians are flocking to the web like never before, with more than 350,000 new surfers venturing into cyberspace each month, according to a new survey.

The number of adults who have used the Internet at least once in the last six months has jumped from 8.8 million in September to nearly 12 million now, according to the author of the survey, Russkiye Fondy, a shareholder in Rambler Internet Holding.

And Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Andrei Sharonov predicted that the number could hit 20 million by 2005.

With roughly 11 percent of the adult population having experienced the web, Russia would have ranked No. 22 in the world in terms of Internet penetration, just above Argentina and Brazil but behind Spain and Italy as of September 2002, according to a Public Opinion Fund survey using the Nielsen/Net.Ratings method. In absolute numbers, Russia was No. 11 in the world in September, just ahead of Australia and Spain and just behind Brazil and Britain.

Russkiye Fondy said the study released this week was designed so advertisers could better gauge the demographics of the country's virtual community, identifying usage trends by age, gender and region.

"Studying the interests of the Internet audience is an important way to increase the efficiency of advertising and a significant driver of the creation and development of new Internet projects," said Yelena Binas, vice president at Russkiye Fondy.

Men dominate the Russian Internet two to one, according to the survey, with most male surfers in the 25 to 34 and 20 to 24 age groups, or 23 percent and 17 percent of the entire audience, respectively. The trend is similar for women, with female users between the ages of 20 and 24 accounting for 12 percent of total users and those between 25 and 34 accounting for 10 percent.

In terms of how people use the web, the survey revealed a couple of general trends, Binas said. The positive is that more people are interested in family-related issues, such as children and health, while the negative is the increasing interest in pornographic sites and decreasing interest in culture, she said.

Pornography aside, men younger than 21 are mostly interested in music and games, while those from 22 to 30 prefer to browse for information on cars, technologies, security, hardware and banking. For men over 30, technology and electronics are all the rage.

Women, perhaps not surprisingly, are more culturally oriented on the web. Those younger than 21 are especially interested in music and radio, as well as education, a category that is popular through the age of 27. For those between 21 and 27, science and movies are particularly popular. Those older than 27 are preoccupied with information related to children, employment, cooking, pharmaceuticals, health, theater, travel and art.

Geographically, the study was divided into four large groups -- people from Moscow and St. Petersburg, regional users and foreign users of Russian Internet resources.

Muscovites are mostly interested in information related to banks, real estate, legislation, transport and cars and disinterested in music and the regions, according to the study.

Most regional users tend to ignore politics in favor of weather forecasts and information related to other cities and regions, technologies, electronics and various companies.

Surfers from St. Petersburg, dubbed Russia's cultural capital, prefer information on telecommunications, weather, real estate and personal hobbies.

Foreign surfers mostly track politics, history, religion and entertainment, the study found.