Fourteen million internet users in South Africa | The Media Online

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Fourteen million internet users in South Africa


South Africa’s Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) has figured out a new, more accurate, way of measuring the country’s online community. The DMMA, working with Echo’s Peter Langschmidt, says the internet population stands at 14 million people, representing 39% of adults in South Africa.

“The DMMA has never formally measured the online population. We have previously conducted some primary research into the demographics of internet users (for example in 2012) and have regularly released unique browser, visits and page impressions numbers from Effective Measure,” says Jarred Cinman, chair of the DMMA’s Steerco. “This is the first time we have been able to correlate Effective Measure with AMPS, and the first time we have been able to reduce ‘unique browsers’ to actual people.”

The figure was derived from the All Media Products Survey (AMPS) and independently validated by Effective Measure (EM), the DMMA’s official measurement provider for digital audience data.

Langschmidt, who sits on the board of the South African Audience Research Foundation (Saarf) board, says Effective Measure gets its figures from tagged sites, which count unique browsers. But some users access the internet from more than one device – laptop, mobile phone and home computer. Effective Measure would count this as three unique browsers. “Marketers are interested in reaching people not machines,” says Langschmidt. “Therefore, we weighted EM’s Unique Brower data against AMPS’ multiple device usage and the EM panel to translate the number from browsers to people.”

Langschmidt says there is “respondent confusion” in the case of internet penetration in South Africa from AMPS as many respondents don’t equate websites accessed via their mobile phones with internet browsing. “Through recoding AMPS to take mobile access into account, we were able to provide a figure that matched the EM online universe,” says Langschmidt.

Asked how much of the internet is accessed via mobile, and how much by PC, Cinman said some people access on multiple devices; some on PC only; and some on mobile only. “Effective Measure currently doesn’t count access on ‘feature phones’ accurately enough for us to commit to those numbers. A significant amount of the growth, however, is because of new mobile users,” he says.

Langschmidt and Cinman said the methodology used could be broken down into three steps:

1. The time periods of the AMPS and Effective Measure data sets were matched, going back to June 2012.

2. Effective Measure’s unique browsers accessing the internet at that time was 15 million. This was reduced by 23% using the Effective Measure panel and AMPS multiple device calculations, to arrive at a figure of 11.6 million monthly internet users.

3. The AMPS figures were recalibrated to include web browsing via mobile phones as well as computers, which increased the numbers from 8.6 million to 11.3 million monthly internet users.

“In the middle of last year Effective Measure reported that there were 15 million unique browsers. In the last year this number has grown to 20 million. By applying the derived formula, we can say that that these 20 million unique browsers represent just under 14 million adult users,” says Langschmidt.

Of course, these numbers will significantly impact on the way advertisers view digital ad spend. Cinman says it’s particularly good news for the DMMA’s publisher members as it is predicted that ad spend across online channels will grow as a result, as marketers will attribute greater weight to digital media.

“Increasing ad spend starts with the ability to plan properly on digital. This has been a difficult goal to reach but we are due to announce shortly the availability of digital data within Telmar, and weighted to AMPS, so that planners can easily integrate digital into their media plans,” says Cinman. “This is one key component in growing spend. There is also a more general issue with educating marketers and agencies on the potential for digital to reach audiences, as well as the potential impact that reach will have. There are lots of misconceptions about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of digital advertising.”

While the adjustment in the user population is good news, the methodology is numbers-driven and doesn’t, on its own, reveal more about the profiles of the users. “This is not a new survey but a new way of analysing AMPS and EM data to tell us the total population size. The next step is to match up the EM survey data with AMPS and make that available in media planning tools such as Telmar so that that kind of deep analysis will also be possible,” Cinman explains.

Cinman says because there was no previous benchmark it isn’t possible to offer deep analysis of the users at this stage. “In a sense this is less about ‘growth’ than having understated the population size for the past few years, largely because of incorrectly accounting for mobile usage,” he says.

The DMMA says it is in “advanced discussions” with the Advertising Media Forum (AMF) to “assist in educating their members, as well as sharing information. We are also commissioning research in a few months to chart the impact of digital advertising campaigns and assist advertisers to understand what results they can expect from these”.

Cinman says the DMMA is encouraging members to submit ad spend numbers to AdEx and looking into other ways of sizing internet ad spend.

“With foreign players attracting a lot of local revenue we know for a fact that AdEx represents only a fraction of the market. Recent figures suggesting that spend online is 3% of the total are wildly off the mark – we believe this is far closer to 10-15%. However today’s announcement makes it clear that marketers ought to be radically rethinking their online spend because there is a market out there – on desktop web, mobile sites, platforms such as Mxit – who are being under-advertised to because of old beliefs about the size of the internet population. We hope ourselves and Peter have gone some way to correcting this.”

PHOTO: World internet penetration, Wikimedia Creative Commons