A New Digital Divide? The Web Is Mobile, Even More So for African-Americans and Hispanics

More than half (56 percent) of Americans are connected to the Internet by some wireless means, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. While this wireless access primarily is on a Wi-Fi network with a laptop (39 percent), about a third of Americans used a cellphone to IM, e-mail or search. Cellphone use to access the Internet increased to 32 percent in April 2009 from 24 percent in December 2007, according to the survey of 2,253 Americans.

Nearly half of all African-Americans and English speaking Hispanics used cellphones or other handheld devices to access the Internet, compared with the 28 percent of white Americans who do so. Adoption of mobile access to the Web by African-Americans on an average day is fast growing; from 12 percent in December 2007 to 29 percent by April 2009. By comparison, only 19 percent of all Americans access the Internet on a mobile device in a typical day.

John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project, told The New York Times that he believes the “cost of broadband and personal computers drives some users to adopt mobile Internet instead of the traditional wire-line.”

We recommend, based on the high usage rate and fast growing penetration of mobile Internet among African-Americans and Hispanics, that local advertisers seeking to reach these demographic groups should appropriately weight their media planning and spending allocations. This is one of the reasons why we see mobile ad spending increasing from $160 million in 2008 to $3.1 billion by 2013.

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