Changes in Consumer Preference on the Internet

Inessa Ishunkina, Project director TNS Russia

The Internet occupies quite a unique place in the Russian media market. On one hand it’s unlikely that anyone will doubt its mass character, and on the other hand the number of Internet users continues to grow.

Thus since the beginning of 2009 the number of the Russian Internet users grew by 6 percent. According to the July 2009 TNS Web Index data 32.2 million people use Internet on average once a month, and 19.1 million people use it on average once a day.

We witnessed the most considerable growth 10 percent in the relatively small cities with population of around 800,000 people. In Moscow the number of Internet users is not increasing as it used to, since the market is already close to its saturation. If there were only 5 million users in the capital 2 years ago, today we see around 5.7 million people using the Internet at least once a month, which is 60 percent of the Moscow population aged 12 years and older.

Although in other big cities like St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg the level of Internet penetration is a little lower than in Moscow, it’s considerably higher than in the rest of the Russian cities. In St. Petersburg 54 percent of the population has access to Internet and in Yekaterinburg it is 56 percent.

Gradually the regional cities become more like Moscow, not only in terms of the Internet users number, but also in terms of Internet access type available to their inhabitants. Thus, in July 2009 the broadband access to Internet from home was available to 17,982 million Russians, and from their office or school — to 5 547 million people, which exceeds last year’s figures by 47 percent and 3 percent accordingly. And thereupon the development of the broadband Internet offers big opportunities for providing more complex Internet content to users.

The Internet usage is influenced mostly by the age of the audience: the younger the Russians, the higher is the share of the Internet users among them. There are practically no youngsters left that don’t use the Internet. For example, among the Muscovites aged 12-24 years 91 percent use the Internet. And if we look at Russia as a whole, this figure becomes 83 percent which is a little bit lower, but still huge.

This means that in midterm perspective the audience will grow owing to older groups (starting from 35 years) and we already see this in Moscow.

Moscow is a good example when we talk about Russian Internet market perspectives. But there’s always the backside of the medal. By increasing the penetration level, the Internet suffers a risk of losing the premium status of its audience. A few years ago we were saying that the biggest part of the Internet audience is the most attractive to advertisers segment — active, well-to-do, advanced consumers of middle and young age. And they are still there. However we saw that apart from them, there are other categories of the population among Internet users. In other words, by its structure of the audience, the Internet begins to look more and more like the Russian population in general. The same thing happened to the TV audience at some point in time.

All the above refers to Internet in general. However, the picture will be incomplete if we don’t mention the web projects that attract most people irrespective of their socio-demographic characteristics and behaviors. Among the top 5 Russian Internet portals there are Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler and social networks Vkontakte.ru and Odnoklassniki.ru. Practically every Internet user visits one of the mentioned web sites once a month. As of July 2009, the total audience of these web sites is around 22,287 million Russians, which is 1.3 million greater than in January 2009.

Hence the Russian Internet continues to demonstrate positive dynamic despite of the current difficult economic situation.