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Surging Internet Usage in Southeast Asia Reshaping the Media Landscape
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Surging Internet Usage in Southeast Asia Reshaping the Media Landscape

With increased access to broadband networks, a proliferation of WiFi sites and a burgeoning smartphone market, it is little surprise that residents of six countries in Southeast Asia are going online with gusto. But what is really raising eyebrows is the fact that in some of these countries Internet usage is now surpassing traditional media such as TV, radio or print.

Nielsen’s new Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report examined the digital media habits and attitudes of consumers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Singaporeans led the region in online usage, spending more than a day (25 hours) online each week, while Filipinos and Malaysians came close behind, spending 21.5 hours and 19.8 hours a week online, respectively. Indonesians trailed the region, spending an average of 14 hours per week.

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“The increasing availability and uptake of Internet-capable mobile devices is driving the surge in digital media usage across the region and bringing about considerable changes in the way media is consumed,” said Melanie Ingrey, APMEA Region Research Director. “More and more, consumers are accessing multiple media platforms simultaneously, such as accessing the Internet while watching TV.”

While PCs continue to be the primary way to access the Internet, smartphones are on track to supplant them: in four of the six SEA countries, ownership of mobile devices equals or exceeds owner ship of PCs, either desktop or laptop. In Indonesia, for example, more than three-quarters (78%) of consumers owned Internet-capable mobile phones compared to just 29 percent who owned notebook computers or 31 percent with desktops. Tablets are just starting to make their mark in the region, but they are likely to show rapid growth in several countries in the region in the year ahead.

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Reading and sending email was the most popular activity for netizens in Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, while reading news was the favourite digital activity in Vietnam and Indonesia. Accessing social networks ranked in the top five activities for all of the countries except in Vietnam, with Facebook dominating the landscape in Indonesia, where 90 percent said that they maintained an active profile on the site, which was also popular in the Philippines and Malaysia. Facebook does not enjoy the same penetration in Thailand or Vietnam, however, with competitors such as 4Shared and Zing having significant popularity. YouTube ranked as one of the top five most popular sites in all six countries.

As in other parts of the world, social networking sites have become an increasingly important way for consumers to connect with the brands they like. In the Philippines, nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents said they interacted with brands, products or companies via social media, while 60 percent of Malaysians and 56 percent of Singaporeans did the same.

Online engagement with brands is particularly important for consumers in making purchase decisions, with vast majorities of consumers in four of the six countries (Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) indicating that they read product reviews online. Majorities in those countries also post their own reviews of products and services purchased.

“Social media platforms offer myriad opportunities for organizations to engage with consumers, and it is becoming an increasingly critical means of influencing consumer decision making,” noted Ingrey. “As Southeast Asian digital consumers are becoming more familiar and comfortable using social media, their level of participation is also increasing. A significant proportion of consumers visit online discussion forums at least monthly and many are now starting to take an active role in these online discussions.”

Online advertising is still in its infancy in the region, with Singapore leading the way in terms of proportion of total ad spend in the channel at 6.9 percent; in Malaysia and Thailand, the figure is less than one percent. Digital consumers in Vietnam indicated the highest positivity toward online ads, while those in Thailand were less receptive. As always, creating ads that are relevant to the needs and interests of individual consumers is critical to gaining their interest.

“Online activity is only going to increase in the years ahead as more consumers obtain smartphones, and 3G and broadband access become more common and affordable. Marketers would be well-advised to examine how they can fully leverage these trends through innovative, creative and most importantly, relevant ad executions,” said Ingrey.

For more information, download ?The Digital Media Habits and Attitudes of Southeast Asian Consumers.