African American Online Population Is Growing

Recent studies have pointed to gaps between the broadband population in the U.S., and the slower adoption rate among the specific demographic of the African American population. A recent survey conducted by IMAGES Market Research for AOL Black Voices suggests adoption in the African American community is closing the gap.

Nearly 80 percent of African Americans surveyed have access to the Internet, compared to the 88 percent of the general population. Two-thirds of online African American households have access to broadband connections, compared to 53 percent of the general population. The findings suggest those currently online are more likely to get broadband within the next six to 12 months. While recent reports have forecast a slowdown of broadband adoption, AOL Black Voices Publisher Bret Moore suggests those coming online will do so with high-speed connections.

“The percentage will be equal or greater,” Moore told ClickZ Stats. “Anyone that’s getting online now is getting on with a high-speed connection.”

Compared to the general population, African American Web users spend more time online. They report spending five hours surfing per day, compared to 2.9 hours for the general population. What drives this group online? Seventy-two percent cite the need to obtain general information as a key driver.

African Americans say they’re more likely than the general population to participate in several online activities. Sixty-eight percent of visit news sites, while only 56 percent of the general online population is likely to visit news sites. Entertainment is a popular destination for 55 percent of African Americans, compared to 26 percent of the general online population. Seventy-two percent of African American Internet users seek out health content, compared to 53 percent of the general online population. Sixty-percent of African American Web users, and 40 percent of the general online population, visit financial content including account information, stocks, and new financial accounts. Thirty-nine percent of African American users, and 26 percent of the general online population look up sports information.

Internet Activities by Population (%)
Activity African-American Population General Online Population
News 68 56
Entertainment 55 26
Health content 72 53
Financial content 60 40
Sports 39 26
Source: AOL Black Voices/Images Market Research 2005

“The overarching theme and insight that came out of this [study] was the level to which African Americans are using the Internet from an information standpoint,” said Moore. “A lot of data we’ve seen said African Americans are using the Web from a social and community standpoint.”

A finding of note for advertisers is the 73 percent of African American respondents who say they respond favorably to advertising featuring multiple cultures. Sixty-eight percent of respondents say they favor companies who benefit the African American community. Overall, many respondents don’t feel enough content “speaks” to the community as a distinct culture with it’s own needs and values.

The 2005 AOL African American Cyberstudy was conducted in three phases. A qualitative phase consisted of focus groups with African Americans with home ISPs in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. Six focus groups were conducted across two age groups, 18 to 34 year-olds, and 35 to 54 year-olds. A quantitative phase was conducted in May of this year with a Web survey of 1,016 African American Internet users. A phone survey of 550 phone interviews (300 African American sample, 250 general market sample) was conducted to obtain a comparative perspective.

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