Interesting. I thought that the audience of degree-holding internet users had broadly plateaued. Across the entire English-speaking world that’s probably broadly true, although perhaps still creeping up a little. But it seems new groups are still arriving online in the UK, according to a new survey report.

Today a new Nielsen/UKOM survey recorded a big rush of men aged over 50 arriving online, over the last year. Younger women (21-34) and teen girls (12-20) fill out much of the rest of this increase — overall the UK internet audience has apparently… “risen by 1.9 million over the last year” to stand at 38.8m people.

Perhaps more importantly the report states that, with the recent surge…

“people over 50 now account for 31% of all internet users”.

Without reading the actual report I’m always a little wary of newspaper reports. Are they lumping together those who simply “have access to the internet” if they want it (we all have that, if we pop down to our local public library), and those who actually use it actively and regularly for hours per week.

Yet there’s obviously a significant (and possibly final?) migration happening, which leaves perhaps only another 3 or 4 million in the UK who’ll eventually get some kind of access. Our chronic levels of functional illiteracy (and perhaps old arthritic hands) will probably prevent many from using it regularly, even if they wanted to. Mass unemployment among public-sector workers may see a good many people downgrading to the lowest possible capped 2Mb broadband contract for the next few years, leading to a decrease in online video usage.

And daily usage is also increasing. In May 2010 UKOM reported that in 2009/10… “broadband internet users in Britain spent [ an average of ] 22 hours and 15 minutes surfing the net each month, a 65% increase on three years ago.” That’s around 5.2 hours per week. But again, I’d be a little suspicious of this figure — how much of this is mundane job-related usage at their place of work? And different surveys can come up with different figures, even in the same time period — a May 2010 OFCOM report gave a figure of an average of “8.3 hours per week” usage in England, for instance.

Still, there’s no denying that UK viewing of online videos rose by 47% between 2008 and 2009. Although even there that may be partly a result of the expansion of broadband into new rural areas during that time, and of people getting faster broadband speeds.