MEDIA: Social gap closes on internet usage

The efficacy of the internet as a communications device capable of

reaching all social classes is increasing dramatically, according to

research that should help to allay fears of the development of an

information divide.



The disparity between the proportion of people from the social

classifications C2DE in the population overall and among regular

internet users, has halved in the past year, according to the latest

information from Continental Research. The proportion of women using the

internet has also increased.



The research found the percentage of internet users from C2DE grew from

21 per cent in July last year to 35 this year. The percentage in the

population overall is 50.



At the same time women, who comprise 51 per cent of the overall

population, are up from 40 to 44 per cent of internet users.



Grace Fodor, director of internet-specialist PR firm the Porter Novelli

Convergence Group, said: 'We are seeing internet penetration following

the same life cycle that new technology generally does - moving into the

mass market - and the potential for communications dialogue from a PR

perspective has expanded greatly as a result.'



'What is really important from a PR perspective is that it allows you to

go direct to the consumer and that is increasingly possible with people

from the C2DE groups as well as, say, young men. It is fantastic,' she

added.



The research found that the breakdown of home net users by age was

relatively static with a slight decrease in the 35-to-54 age bracket and

a slight increase in the over-55s.



The under-44s are still over represented among internet users,

constituting 67 per cent compared to the 52 per cent they comprise in

the population.



At the same time, the total number of internet users jumped 33 per cent

in the year to July 2001 from 13 million to 17.3 million.



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