Increase in use of social networking tools seen

The emergence of a range of new communication and social networking tools has led to a marked decline in the use of web-based email in India. At the same time, the time spent on using social networking sites has gone up steeply.

The drop in the time spent on using web-based email, including Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, is steep in India, next only to Malaysia, among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to figures released recently by comScore, a global online audience measurement service.

The assessment is based on a comparison of the total minutes a sample population of persons above 15 spent using web-based email in November 2010 with the figures pertaining to the same month in 2009. The total accumulated time they spent over the month using different web-based email services dropped by 19 per cent in the country. The figures for individual months between November 2009 and November 2010 indicate that the decline was not uniform from month to month. A declining trend was witnessed in many of the months which became marked during October and November 2010.

Could the increased use of mobile phone-based email services and SMS be responsible for this trend? “It is believed that mobile usage is partially responsible for web-based email decline, but unfortunately we don't measure mobile usage in India at this time, so we can't put figures to this hypothesis,” a comScore spokesperson said in response to this question.

“I am not surprised that we are spending less time on web-based email. There are two reasons for this shift — mobile and social. While adults are using smartphone applications to access email, teens are using text-messaging instead of email. We are also turning to status updates and direct messages on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate with our personal and professional contacts, and the new Facebook Messages will further strengthen this shift away from email,” said Gaurav Mishra, Director, Digital and Social Media, MSLGROUP Asia.

Interestingly, the time spent on using web-based email has increased in Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Globally, the total minutes spent on it had declined by about 2 per cent in November 2010 compared with November 2009, with the drop being about 10 per cent overall in the Asia-Pacific region. Among these countries, Malaysia witnessed the steepest drop of 22 per cent.

The demographic data pertaining to India provided by comScore also indicated that the section of the population which accounted primarily for the drop was those in the age groups of 34-25 and 15-24.

The use of social networking sites seemed to have reached a ‘critical mass' in the region, going by the sharp rise in the time spent on them. Among the countries in the region, the increase in the time spent on social networking sites dramatically increased in India, again, next only to Malaysia. There had been a 68 per cent increase in November 2010, compared with November 2009 for India, as against 114 per cent for Malaysia. Globally the time spent on social networking sites grew by 44 per cent, with the Asia-Pacific region witnessing a 16 per cent increase overall during this period.

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