The web is getting grey on top

More old people are jumping on to the Internet and the over 55 year-olds now represent nearly one in five of internet users, according to research by Nielsen Online.

Nielsen Online has released figures for the changing age make-up of the UK Internet population as well as the youngest and oldest audiences amongst the 100 most popular brands in the UK.

Over the last year (October 2006-October 2007) the share of the UK internet population made up by under 25-year-olds has decreased from 29% to 25%, while the share of over 55-year-olds has risen from 16% to 19%. At the same time, the average age of the UK internet population has risen from 35.7 to 37.9.

Unsurprisingly high street retailer Marks & Spencer has the oldest average online age at 46.5, while the site with the youngest UK online audience is online games portal Miniclip, with an average age of 28.1.

The top 10 online brands with the youngest average age include the inevitable download site – Limewire, entertainment sites – Nickleodeon, Disney, and social networking sites Bebo.

The top five online brands with the oldest average age are all familiar high-street brands, including M&S, John Lewis, and Nationwide. More surprising are the average ages for supposed “youth orientated” web sites, YouTube has an average age of 34.4, FaceBook 34.6, MSN 36.2 and blogger 38.5.

Alex Burmaster, internet analyst at Nielsen Online, “When looking at how a particular audience is composed by age, a change in share – even by just a few percentage points – actually represents quite a fundamental shift. Age compositions tend to evolve subtly over a number of years so to see such large changes in the course of just a year shows that the Internet population is undergoing a significant ageing process. It will be very interesting to see whether this trend continues over the next 12 months and, if so, whether the types of services and products offered and marketed online adapt to reflect this changing population. New online offerings and technology are usually targeted at the young, but it’s possible brands could be missing a trick if they continue down this path in the future.”

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